A shopkeeper from High Wycombe who was fined for drinking carrot juice out of a beer can in a no-alcohol area has landed himself with £8,000 of court costs after losing his case against the council.
The brilliantly-named Alex Snowball, 33, says he was trying to prove that the police didn't know the rules they were supposed to be enforcing when he sat outside his used electronics shop in Frogmoor drinking carrot juice out of a Foster's can in 2018.
Unsurprisingly, the police saw him and asked him to hand over the can, which they believed broke the rules about open alcohol containers and drinking in the street.
Snowball says he is teetotal and that at least one officer knew this, but nonetheless refused to give up the can, so was given a Fixed Penalty Notice with a fine for £60. Immediately afterwards, he poured his drink on the pavement to prove it was freshly-squeezed carrot juice. The police wouldn't revoke the fine because he'd refused to give them the can, and Snowball also refused to pay the fine.
The shopkeeper -- who admits he was "deliberately awkward" with the police officers -- says he and his customers are victims of a "long campaign" of harassment by the police and local council, whom he wanted to "expose" for what he considers poor handling of the no-alcohol rule.
After he didn't pay the fine, Snowball appeared at High Wycombe magistrates' court, where he was acquitted of breaching a Public Spaces Protection Order. Buckinghamshire County Council appealed, so the whole affair went to the High Court in London, which seems a bit of a waste of everyone's time to us.
Nonetheless, the case proceeded, and the council's representatives claimed it didn't matter what was in the can because the offence was refusing to hand it over. Justice Elisabeth Laing agreed and overturned Snowball's acquittal, ordering him to pay the lion's share of the council's £10,000 legal bill for bringing the case.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Snowball says:
"The legal system clearly is in need of reform, you have an individual, such as myself, who is being subjected to illegal and immoral activities.
In the appeal it has been confirmed that I did not commit the offence but the appeal was based purely on the belief I committed the offence even though it was accepted I did not. Clearly this is not in the interest of natural justice."
Meanwhile, a Buckinghamshire County Council spokesperson had this to say:
"Mr Snowball tried to get round the public spaces protection order by treating it with contempt and by testing our enforcement to the limits.
The verdict of the court supports the strong action we took and more importantly, sends out a clear signal that we are serious about tackling anti-social behaviour, whatever form it might take."
Honestly, it sounds like everyone involved in these shenanigans needs to grow up a bit, or we'll send them to bed with no carrot juice. [Telegraph]