15 February 2006

Cabbie fumes over smoking fine

BBC

By Jonathan McCambridge
15 February 2006

An Ulster taxi driver said today he is prepared to face court before he will pay a fine issued by police for smoking in his own car.

William Smyth (48), was driving off-duty on the King's Road in east Belfast on February 4 when he was stopped by police and given the £30 fixed penalty notice.

The police action has sparked anger and calls for the fine to be lifted.

Mr Smyth said: "I was not working, I did not even have my taxi sign above the car. I was just driving along when these two officers stopped me.

"They asked me if I was working and I said no. Then they looked at my taxi plates and said about me smoking and asked me to pull over. Then they gave me the yellow fixed penalty ticket. I thought it was some sort of joke for a TV programme but they said it was something to do with hygiene.

"This is my own car and it is the only transport I have. When I am not working I use it for personal use. I would never smoke if I was working or there was anyone in the car but I thought it was my own business what I do when I am in my own time."

Mr Smyth added: "I have not paid the ticket and I have no intention of paying it. I am trying to find out exactly what law I am supposed to have broken. If it comes to it then I will go to court to fight this.

"It is completely ridiculous. How can you stop someone having a cigarette in their own car in their own time? Do the police not have anything better to do?"

A police spokesman confirmed that they had handed out a fixed penalty notice to a taxi driver for smoking in his vehicle.

He said: "Police did issue a £30 fixed penalty notice on February 4 on the King's Road to a male driver for smoking in a PSV vehicle.

"This is an offence under the PSV Regulation (Northern Ireland 1985)."

The spokesman said the driver had the opportunity to pay the fine or opt for a court hearing. He also said any complaints about police action should be referred to the Police Ombudsman.

It is understood that police officers do not view any distinction between taxis which are off or on-duty.

Ulster Unionist Assembly member Michael Copeland said he had written to the PSNI asking for an explanation and for the fine to be lifted.

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