Smoking saga to drag on further

The ongoing saga of a Northland pub owner who made history by being the first to be prosecuted for allowing smoking indoors is set to drag on for several more months yet.
Neal Summers, whose Rightside Properties owns the Kaikohe Hotel, was first called to court in August 2008 for breaching the then four-year-old Smokefree Environments Act.
 Mr Summers claimed that when he turned up to court there was no judge present and no one from the Ministry of Health, so, after an hour of waiting, he left just before 10am. The hearing began without him  10 minutes later.
Mr Summers said he only found out the hearing had gone ahead and that he had been hit with a record $5800 fine, not including court costs, when he read about it in a newspaper in December that year.
He refused to pay the fine and the case ended up in the High Court at Whangarei before being sent back to Kaikohe in December 2009.
The case was to have been re-heard in Kaikohe District Court yesterday, where Mr Summers arrived on a Segway to represent himself on the six charges of failing to prevent smoking in a non-open area.
But the case was supposed to go back to Judge John McDonald who ran the original hearing. Instead, it was Judge Duncan Harvey who was rostered on yesterday, raising his eyebrows at how long the case had taken so far.
"This is getting a bit ancient now, isn't it?" he asked.
Mr Summers said he  would be in Whangarei for business all day on Thursday, when Judge McDonald  would next be sitting in Kaikohe.
 Judge Harvey ordered that a date for the re-hearing be set on April 7. Mr Summers would be informed by letter to save him another trip to court.
 

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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