A taxi driver has been forced to pay over seven times the cost of an initial fixed penalty notice after refusing the fine and being found guilty of smoking in his cab on a Grantham street.
Kevin Doughty, 47, was witnessed with the cigarette lit in his Ford Mondeo on St Peter’s Hill by a South Kesteven District Council officer on August 31 last year.
Instead of paying the £30 fixed penalty notice within 15 days of it being served, he was instead convicted and left with a bill of £230 at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court on April 5.
Having pleaded not guilty to the offence at an earlier hearing, the court heard Doughty claimed that he was vaping an e-cigarette in the vehicle at the time and whilst not on duty.
The officer maintained, however, it was a tobacco cigarette he was smoking and the driver did not claim at the time of the incident that it was an electronic version he was using.
Smoking a tobacco cigarette in any taxi or private hire vehicle contravenes rules that were amended in August 2015, where drivers must not smoke in their vehicles even when they do not have passengers or if using the taxi when off duty.
This is to avoid tobacco smoke being present in the air or absorbed into soft furnishings in any vehicle and being passed on to passengers.
Doughty, of Welham Street, Grantham, was found guilty of a single offence under the Health Act 2006, fined £100, ordered to pay £100 costs and given a £30 victim surcharge.
District Judge Peter Veits said: “Smoking includes being in possession of lit tobacco according to the definition of the legislation.
“Mr Doughty, you claimed it was e-cigarette you were smoking but why though did you not bring that up at the time of the conversation?
“Instead you chose to be indignant with the officer over why she was troubling you at 7.30am in the morning and it undermines your evidence. I am convicting you of smoking in a smoke-free environment.”
SKDC’s executive manager for environment Ian Yates said: “We know the vast majority of licensed taxi drivers in South Kesteven are very responsible around the legislation relating to smoking in their vehicles.
“However this case highlights the consequences for those tempted to flout the rules and subsequently expose their passengers to tobacco smoke – whether using the vehicle when on or off duty.
“Mr Doughty has been left to pay a bill seven times the amount compared with paying this at the earliest opportunity and simply admitting he had made an error.”