Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 16:32 UK

Painter fined for smoking in van

Gordon Williams
Gordon Williams says he will appeal against the 30 fine

A painter and decorator says he is "dumbfounded" after a 30 fine for smoking a cigarette in his own van.

Gordon Williams, of Llanafan, Aberystwyth, says he had popped to the shops when he was pulled over by Ceredigion council officials.

"I was told that because my van is my place of work I had broken the smoking laws," he said.

A council spokesman said Mr Williams had acknowledged the offence and elected to pay the fixed penalty.

"I am dumbfounded - the van is only insured for private use and to get me to and from work," added Mr Williams, from Llanafan, near Aberystwyth.

"It not my place of work - I decorate houses not vans."

The grandfather decried the on-the-spot penalty as the "Big Brother state going too far".

He added: "I respect anyone who chooses not to smoke, but I would also ask for the same respect to have the freedom to smoke in my own private vehicle."

Mr Williams was driving on the A487 near Aberystwyth in his unmarked blue Suzuki Carrier van when he was pulled over by council officials carrying out spot checks on the safety of vehicles.

He believes it is the first ticket of its kind handed out by the council since the smoking regulations came in last year - the fixed penalty notice was number 0001.

He was on a shopping errand to pick up teabags for his wife when he was stopped.

Mr Williams added: "I take the wife shopping in the van. It is my private vehicle as well as my work van."

Mr Williams' wife Sue has already paid the fine, fearing it would increase if not settled promptly.

But her husband remains defiant, and said he would be challenging the punishment. "I have appealed against this even though I initially paid the fine otherwise it would have increased to 50.

"I've sent up my insurance certificate and am awaiting the outcome."

Simon Clark, the director of smoking freedom group Forest, condemned the fine as "absolutely ridiculous".

He said: "It smacks of some jobsworth council official interpreting the law to the most extreme level.

"This surely is not what the change in the law was intended for - it was not meant to harass and persecute people going about their ordinary lives.

"It is ridiculous that someone should be fined for smoking in their own private vehicle away from any workplace."

A spokesman for Ceredigion council said Mr Williams's vehicle was stopped by police as part of a multi-agency operation.

"A total of 56 vehicles were stopped and inspected during the initiative and, as a result, three fixed penalty notices were issued in connection with contraventions of the smoking in smoke-free places legislation," said the spokesman.

"All three fixed penalties have been paid.

"When stopped, both Mr Williams and his male passenger were found to be smoking.


"Based on information received from Mr Williams at the scene, fixed penalty notices were served on both persons.

"Both persons have now acknowledged the offences and elected to pay the fixed penalty rather than having the matter considered by the court."

The spokesman added the matter was therefore considered to be closed and no record of criminal conviction would be recorded against the individuals concerned.

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: "The smoke-free regulations state that a vehicle shall be smoke-free if it is used for work by more than one person, regardless of whether they are in the vehicle at the same time, to protect everyone who uses the vehicle from the harmful effects of exposure to second-hand smoke, regardless of when they use the vehicle.

"Smoking is permitted in vehicles used for work purposes that are for the sole use of the driver and are not used as a workplace by anyone else, either as a driver or a passenger."

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