17:00 ... Two hours ago I was sitting in the reception area at Forest Bank prison in Salford. Standing next to me was blogger Old Holborn, in full costume. OH had just handed over a silver metal suitcase. Inside the suitcase was over £9,000 in £10 notes.
One hour ago we were standing outside the prison talking to (former jailed landlord) Nick Hogan and his wife Denise. Around us was a scrum of photographers and reporters.
Full story of the day to follow. First, here's the news release, issued jointly by Anna Raccoon, Old Holborn and Taking Liberties, and released at four o'clock this afternoon:
NEWS RELEASE Wednesday 10th March 2010
Jailed landlord walks free
Nick Hogan, the former landlord jailed after failing to pay fines imposed when he defied the smoking ban, has walked free from jail.
Hogan’s release, eleven days into a six-month sentence imposed by magistrates in Bolton, follows an online campaign to raise the money to secure his freedom.
Speaking outside Forest Bank prison in Salford, Hogan, 43, said: “I was devastated to be sent to jail. The smoking ban has cost me my pub, my job and my liberty.
“I’d like to thank everyone who donated money to get me out of jail, and all the well-wishers who sent me cards and letters while I was behind bars. I can’t thank them enough.
“It’s wonderful to know that so many people feel as strongly as I do about the smoking ban and its impact on ordinary working people.”
The campaign to pay Hogan’s fines was launched by renowned blogger Anna Raccoon with the help of fellow libertarian blogger Old Holborn who set up an account so people could donate online.
Within 36 hours over £5,000 had been raised. A further £1,200 was donated over the next two days before the campaign received a crucial helping hand from Britain’s most popular political blogger, Guido Fawkes, who publicised it on his widely read and influential site.
By the end of last week donations totalled more than £9,000, enough to pay Hogan’s debts.
A host of libertarian bloggers publicised the campaign, which was also backed by the smokers’ lobby group Forest. A Facebook group, Justice for Nick Hogan, attracted over one thousand supporters.
Anna Raccoon, the blogger who proposed the campaign to secure Hogan’s early release, said: “Nick Hogan is free because ordinary, hard-working members of the public, smokers and non-smokers alike, dug deep in their pockets to raise the money to return this man to his wife and home.
“The fact that so many people responded is a powerful message from the voting public that politicians would be well advised to heed.”
Old Holborn, whose blog hosted the fund that paid Hogan’s fine, said: “Debtors prisons were abolished in 1861. To imprison a bankrupt man for his non-ability to pay fines imposed by the introduction of an unjust law is not something the international blogosphere was prepared to tolerate.”
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest which supported the campaign, said: “We don't condone people breaking the law but we do condemn the draconian nature of the anti-smoking legislation that has resulted in a previously law-abiding man losing his business and going to jail.
“It’s a scandal that landlords are not allowed to offer customers the choice of smoking and non-smoking facilities, as is the case throughout most of Europe, without the threat of imprisonment hanging over them.”
More to follow, including pictures, as soon as I can. I will make sure that Nick reads all the comments on this thread when he has a moment.
Yes, it really is true. See:
Landlord who defied smoking ban released from jail (Manchester Evening News)