Pete Robinson: A double whammy for Tony Blows

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Tony Blows was last week fined a total of £12,000 including costs.By coincidence on the same day Shabbir Merali, owner of Markaz Restaurant and...

Tony Blows was last week fined a total of £12,000 including costs.

By coincidence on the same day Shabbir Merali, owner of Markaz Restaurant and Shisha Lounge in Bradford, was also found guilty in court of openly flouting the smoking ban. His punishment, with costs, totaled £6,000.

What's more Bradford Council worked hard to liaise with Mr Merali, even granting him a two-month grace period, before reluctantly bringing a prosecution. No such kid glove treatment from Herefordshire Council who were clearly gunning for Tony Blows from the outset.

In the end the council snooped on Tony's pub covertly, allegedly having received "an anonymous tip-off". Like, yeah. The most convenient thing about anonymous tip-offs is that you don't have to name non-existent names.

So why was Tony treated so harshly, and does such a crippling penalty really fit the crime?

After all let's not forget the "offences" took place on private property and concerned a perfectly legal product. The customers at the Dog Inn were all perfectly happy. None of them made any form of complaint. In all other respects Tony was of impeccable character and a perfect licensee.

His punishment would have been considerably less had he served sozzled minors, run a disorderly house or even pushed drugs.

We're not talking about some villain here, or even a self-publicist on the make. It seriously worries me the way dissenters are hounded and criminalised in today's Britain. We throw open our prisons in a frenzy to release serious offenders while making an example of anyone who hankers back to the days when our personal freedoms were both respected and protected by the State.

But what really sickens me about this latest episode is the reaction of some to Tony's predicament. Perhaps his chances of winning were slim from the beginning but that does not make him misguided. He realised what he was getting into, and the risks involved, but did it anyway because somebody had to.

That demonstrates a strength of conviction few of us could match, the 'right stuff' that once formed the backbone of this country.

While the rest of us compliantly rolled over this man has achieved something just by standing up to be counted. He can look proudly into a mirror safe in the knowledge he had the mettle to do whatever he could to protect the trade he loves dearly.

Criticism from the smug antis I can understand. They despise people like Tony who refuse to conform to their politically-correct dictat. But to their shame a number of the less sympathetic remarks appear to be coming from fellow licensees, the very people who should be standing shoulder to shoulder with him.

To those of you who say Tony is 'a mug', consider this: By the end of today we will have lost another 4 - 8 pubs. Dreams shattered, families made homeless, jobs squandered along with an irreplaceable community resource. We bleat about how "the law is the law" and meekly mutter of 'evolution' as we spinelessly stand by and witness the life blood of the industry drain away. Drip by drip.

Who's the mug?

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