Ex publican fined £2,000 for hygiene offences says if ‘the council wants to get you get, they will get you’
PUBLISHED: 16:41 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:31 12 February 2020
Former March publican Nigel Marsh described his prosecution by Fenland Council for hygiene breaches at his former pub as the culmination of a lengthy vendetta “to run me out of town”.
In a vitriolic attack on the council - following his conviction and a £2,000 fine - he questioned why "after eight long years of doing battle with them, and even after I close, they still take action against me personally".
"It was widely known that Fenland District Council tried to remove me in 2011 and get me closed town for noise in 2014," he said.
"Then were issues with and electrical inspection in 2017 and ongoing food safety ongoing issues".
He said he failed to see how they could have graded his former pub Georges as zero for health and hygiene when for the most part there were minor issues. "The sink was dirty, crumbs were under the toaster, breakfast plates were waiting to be washed up," he said.
"By last year I had had enough and shut up shop and closed the venue. I shut in June folded the company in August 2019 and settled down to a better way of life on the Norfolk coast, thanks to the success of Georges over previous years.
"Everyone was aware I spent less time less time at Georges after 2017 when I started a renovation project on my new Norfolk business.
"Yet even after I closed and liquidated the company, FDC took out action against me personally in December 2019 some six month after I closed.
"And the reason for my guilt? That was because of my failure to ensure my staff undertook the work I instructed them to do"
He said that after taking advice from a barrister it was clear he had no defence for what effectively is known as 'vicarious liability'. This, said, carries a sentence of unlimited financial penalty and or custodial sentence.
"I was initially sentenced to a suspended sentence and community service which after much debate was changed to a financial fine."
Mr Marsh said the council's comments after the case by portfolio holder Cllr Sam Hoy summed up his view of the council.
"Fenland is not the place for business", he said. "Sam was once was a customer and ate with us several times and we were pm first name terms. yet she prefers to spend £2,000 of FDC money on a business that has already been run out of town."
Mr Marsh said it was "good" to see the council stating that his case was being used as an example to other.
"This example is quite simply that if the council want to get you, they will get you; if not today then tomorrow.
"And regardless as to whether you are still in business or even in their county they will remember and get you some time".
Mr Marsh said the council's legal costs were £3,500 compared to his fine of £2,000.
"The end result by order of the judge was I pay FDC legal costs of £1,000 so game set and match was Fenland Council costs £2,000, Nigel Marsh costs and fine £3, 000 so court wins with £2,000."
He added: "The question here is why does FDC waste £2,000 on taking action against me when the business is already closed.
"Why does FDC spend £2,000 of local taxpayers' money on something that is already close / finished /gone?"
Mr Marsh said: "I am pleased that I am no longer fighting to run a business in Fenland; it is not a positive 'can do' attitude for commerce
"What reason can there be to chase and convict me for a business I have already closed down? Could it be the cheeky digs I have supplied over my eight years of business in my hometown before FDC ran me out of it?
"This action was brought against me based on the chef's management of their space and, the chef was qualified, yet this qualification stands for nothing if the boss is held responsible for a dirty frying pan plates waiting to be washed up.
"By accepting the report of FDC in February 2009 and carrying out the required amendments and reopening after Fenland Council's re-inspection that acceptance to amendments of the issues pinpointed was used to convict me.
"My advice is to not trust food safety inspectors since all their reports are geared up to use against you if they wish later.
"Question and dispute everything they say, or you too could be convicted just like me."
Cllr Samantha Hoy, portfolio holder for housing said "These were serious offences and the defendant has a history of poor compliance with food safety and hygiene laws. It is only bychance that there was no food poisoning outbreak linked to the premises.
"The council does not take decisions to prosecute lightly but sometimes it is necessary to protect the public and
reassure compliant food businesses that poor food hygiene and safety standards will not be tolerated."