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Islington Tribune - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 12 June 2009
Guilty of fag crime, but I won’t be paying my fine

• I’M writing in my capacity as the evil cigarette-butt felon featured on the front page (Police swoop on smoker in row over fag, June 5), to thank the Tribune – and particularly reporter Peter Gruner – for bringing my situation to the attention of a wider public.
The Tribune is continuing with its honourable tradition of what my French-speaking students term journalisme engagé – journalism which seeks to expose injustice and stupidity in public life and tries to help give a voice to the underdog?
That you chose to give a certain weight to my story comes as no surprise. After all, mobilising the might of the Metropolitan Police to stamp out not knife crime, or gun crime but fag crime should strike just about anybody as ever so slightly disproportionate.
Mr Gruner’s piece was a fair and, in almost every respect, an accurate one. His only error (and here I blame myself for not having made this sufficiently clear to him) was in suggesting that I had been followed from Archway Tube station to the 210 bus stop in St John Way by a single Islington Council “warden”. In fact, there were at least three!
I have it on reliable authority that there are only seven of these worthy public officials operating in the borough, so readers are entitled to ask what the four – or possibly fewer – remaining wardens were doing at the time of my apprehension. Were they perhaps busy arresting elderly ladies outside Tesco for driving a shopping trolley without due care and attention?
Seriously, though, the idea of calling in the police, with sirens blaring and lights flashing, to stamp out stubbing-out offences (sorry about the bad pun) has just got to run counter to natural justice and plain common sense.
When I found myself followed to a bus stop by uniformed wardens, I thought that the pantomime season had begun six months early: “Look, they’re behind you” as, indeed, they were. Then came the coppers, wearing different coloured uniforms just for variety and dramatic effect.
Sticking to the pantomime theme, your readers may – legitimately, I think – debate among themselves as to whether or not I’m guilty of this heinous crime. “Oh yes, he is!” versus “Oh no, he isn’t!”
Let me resolve the controversy by saying that, yes, I am thoroughly guilty. I stubbed out a cigarette end on the pavement within the hallowed precincts of the London Borough of Islington. Had I done so in neighbouring Haringey, says a police officer acquaintance of mine, there would have been no comeback whatsoever.
That’s not the point, though. I would not have done this dastardly deed had there been an ashtray available or had there been any written indication that what I was about to do constituted an offence. As a regular Tribune reader, I had been vaguely aware of your report on David Leigh, who faced a similar situation to mine, but one doesn’t keep these things permanently in one’s head, does one?
Your article correctly quoted me as saying I had no intention of paying the fine associated with this grave affront to the rule of law. That remains – and will remain – my position.
In the meantime, let me reiterate that at the time of my falling into the hands of the duly-constituted (?) authorities, I was passing out leaflets in defence of Tube workers and in support of the RMT strike which we’ve just witnessed. I was doing this in my capacity as a supporter of the Campaign Against Tube Privatisation and as a leading – and all too well-known – local organiser of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
If any readers are of a cynical bent, they may wish to inquire as to why I (rather than the half a dozen other felonious fag-butt stubber-outers in the vicinity) felt the wrath of the law.
I’m sure it was purely coincidental, so far be it from me to comment further.
Marquis Road, N4

• I WAS astonished that police attended when another unsuspecting member of the public was handed a fine for disposing of a cigarette butt on the pavement. Have the police got the time to spend on fighting this crime, and if so can the public expect police to attend a smoking crime scene if they report it in the normal way?
As someone who has unknowingly committed this crime, my sympathy goes out to all those people who have found themselves on the wrong end of the law.
It has become a habit of smokers everywhere to dispose of their spent cigarette butts in this manner if they are not provided with an ash tray or other receptacles.
To put up signs warning that it is an offence, especially at public buildings, would be helpful. I noticed that even the town hall does not have these notices.
Surely, it would be better to educate people rather than have street wardens roaming the borough in this predatory way attempting to catch unsuspecting offenders.
I realise that local government needs all the financial help it can get but extracting money from unsuspecting and unaware offenders does illustrate a rather contemptuous approach to the electorate by the ruling party on the council.
Where are those liberal and tolerant values that make places like Islington so attractive to reside in?
Islington Mind

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Islington Tribune, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to Deadline for letters is midday Wednesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld . Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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