Pete Robinson: Has Hamish had it?

Related tags Rebel hamish howitt Chief superintendent Crime Hamish howitt

This concerns smoking-ban rebel Hamish Howitt who runs the Happy Scots bar in Blackpool. The authorities are out to get Hamish one way or another....

This concerns smoking-ban rebel Hamish Howitt who runs the Happy Scots bar in Blackpool. The authorities are out to get Hamish one way or another. Even if that means exceeding their authority in a manner that in my opinion borders on harassment. Blackpool Council have compiled several alleged breaches of the ban into one case thus attempting to 'fine' him £17,500 rather than the suggested £2,500 maximum.

In a separate shameful move the council have formally withdrawn support from Blackpool's 'Pubwatch' scheme, voicing concern about Hamish Howitt's continued role as chairman. Remember that Mr Howitt has not yet been convicted of any offence. It cannot be mere coincidence that Blackpool's Police Chief Superintendent Russ Weaver has also written withdrawing support from Pubwatch, saying Howitt's activities have "placed the police in considerable difficulties".

But it hasn't done so at all. Just last week the police were complaining about the added headache caused by smoking pub-goers spilling into the street. So by keeping them inside Hamish is actually saving them extra work.

Presumably his role as Pubwatch chairman has hitherto been performed without any complaints. As for the council, they have never objected to receiving large sums from Mr Howitt in the form of business rates, part of which directly pays for the police.

This action appears to be a vindictive attempt to oust Hamish Howitt as Pubwatch chairman by fermenting ill-feeling against him among Blackpool's landlords. And with scant regard for the consequences.

Blackpool's Pubwatch cannot function without Police and council support so the result could be an increase in all the areas the scheme is designed to prevent - under age drinking, anti-social behaviour, drunkenness, drinking in the street, theft, drugs, vandalism and assaults.

Clearly that's a price Blackpool's authorities are prepared to pay.

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