In the dock, shopkeeper who refused to put up a non-smoking warning

Even before it became law, Stuart Isbister had a no smoking policy at his small gift shop.

Not that it was much of an issue – in fact he can’t recall a customer ever having lit up while browsing his shelves.

Which makes it all the more astonishing that Mr Isbister has just been dragged through the courts by his local council because he failed to display a small no smoking sign.

In a case costing the taxpayer thousands of pounds, he was pursued with the full force of the law by his Labour-run authority – until the action was yesterday thrown out by magistrates.

'Waste of money': Stuart Isbister was pursued by his council in Nottinghamshire for not putting a No Smoking sign on his shop door

'Waste of money': Stuart Isbister was pursued by his council in Nottinghamshire for not putting a No Smoking sign on his shop door

The 49-year-old shopkeeper began when an enforcement officer arrived and issued him with a £200 on-the- spot fine for failing to display the sign in his window.

The Government’s smoking ban has generated a massive bureaucracy and army of enforcement officers in councils. Rules require all stores, public buildings and even churches to put up an A5 – 8.3in by 5.8in – nosmoking sign.

But Mr Isbister was so angry that cash- strapped councils can find the money to enforce the red tape, he decided to fight the fine. He said: ‘We just do not think it necessary to have a sign.

‘We have a small amount of space and we wanted to keep the door area simple and uncluttered.

‘The sign we are expected to have is A5 and is equivalent to one required for a huge shopping centre.

Small store: Mr Isbister said he wanted to keep the front of his shop 'uncluttered' by the A5-sized sign

Small store: Mr Isbister said he wanted to keep the front of his shop 'uncluttered' by the A5-sized sign

‘It is completely disproportionate and totally unnecessary. People just don’t smoke in shops. We don’t have signs on the door saying no thieving and no dropping your trousers, yet both of these are also against the law. We just can’t have a sign for every law.’

The initial fine of £200 could be reduced to £150 if it was paid within 14 days. However, the courts have the power to push it to £1,000.

'Too big': The sign is the same size as the one a nearby large shopping centre was required to put up

'Too big': The sign is the same size as the one a nearby large shopping centre was required to put up

By contrast, the fine for a smoker lighting up in a pub is £30.

‘Is the law designed to create jobs for smoking control officers or stop smoking?’ asked Mr Isbister, whose shop The Worm That Turns is in Nottingham and who represented himself in court.

‘We are 100 per cent behind stopping smoking and things that are good for health. I just don’t think small shopkeepers should be forced to have their windows bedecked with signs,’ he said.

‘In this day and age, I can’t see how a council can spend money on a smoking control department and compliance officers. It looks like a pointless job creation exercise.

‘I thought it was wrong to be put upon like this and decided to challenge it.’

Yesterday, magistrates threw out the case because the council had failed to follow correct procedure. Despite spending thousands, it seems the council and its lawyers were unable to ensure they had correctly applied the law.

The council said: ‘The Health Act requires that all smoke-free premises display the appropriate sign – we are simply upholding this.’

source: dailymail.co.uk

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