Page last updated at 19:51 GMT, Monday, 3 August 2009 20:51 UK

'Fake cigarette' legal bid fails

Electric cigarette
The electric cigarette emits steam rather than smoke

A lorry driver lost his bid to overturn a smoking fine despite claiming he was using an "electric" cigarette.

Chris Minihan, from Liverpool, was seen smoking, flicking ash and throwing the butt away from his cab by council enforcement officers in Runcorn.

He fought the charge on Monday, saying he was using a device which mimics the actions of a real cigarette.

Runcorn Magistrates' Court rejected his claim and he was fined £200 for smoking in a company vehicle and littering.

Minihan, 42, from Walton, demonstrated his Gamucci electric cigarette in the dock during the hearing on Monday.

The device simulates the actions of a tobacco cigarette by glowing at the tip and giving off "smoke" which is actually created by steam.


No doubt this could have been resolved on the day, had the enforcement officer came to me in the cab and done her job properly

Chris Minihan

Minihan was taking a driving break in a lay-by in Runcorn when he was spotted by Halton Council enforcement officer Yvonne Taylor, the court heard.

Ms Taylor told magistrates she watched his arm come in and out of the window with a cigarette, which got smaller on each occasion.

"I could clearly see smoke emitting from the cab and the motion of him flicking ash," she said.

"I then observed the cigarette stub flying from the driver's hand on to the grassed area below."

Ms Taylor visited Minihan's employer, Neston Town Cleaning Limited, two weeks later to present the fixed penalty notices.

Lost job

But the driver told the court he was aware of the smoking ban and insisted he had not broken it, because he was using an electric cigarette.

He said: "No doubt this could have been resolved on the day, had the enforcement officer came to me in the cab and done her job properly by enforcing the law.

"But she did not. She came weeks later, by which time I had no way to prove it was a misunderstanding."

Minihan denied flicking ash and also denied throwing a stub to the ground.

Brian Howells, chairman of the bench, said his story was "consistent" but described the enforcement officer as a credible witness and found in favour of the council.

Minihan was fined £100 for smoking in a company vehicle and £100 for littering. He was also ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge to the council and £500 in costs.

He has since lost his tanker driving job and said he planned to appeal against the decision.

In a statement, the council said Mr Minihan had been offered the opportunity to pay the fines but had declined and opted for court action.

"The council will continue to enforce the legislation on littering and smoking in accordance with national guidelines and council policy," a spokeswoman said.

Advertisement

The lorry driver said he was surprised by the fines



Print Sponsor


RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific