Ludicrous fine for high percentage of erotic stock reduced on appeal
Based on an article from York Press see
A sex shop owner has managed to persuade a judge and two magistrates that £14,000 was too much to pay for not having a licence.
Andrew Clark was said to have broken the law when he sold sexual items from XES in Goodramgate, because he didn't have a licence to do so, said Nathan Adams, prosecuting for City of York Council. (Note that R18s were not being sold)
Adams told the court a licence cost £7,126 a year and York magistrates fined Clark £14,000 plus £1,108 prosecution costs earlier this year.
Clark admitted running a sex shop without a licence and appealed against the sentence to York Crown Court.
Judge Tom Cracknell, sitting with two magistrates on the appeal, said: The fine, he says, is eye-wateringly high and with that we agree.
The appeal court bench dropped the fine to £2,000, but kept the costs order and added a two-year conditional discharge.
This means that if Clark breaks the law again in the next two years, he could be resentenced for the sex shop offence.
Earlier, Adams told the court that council officers had first warned Clark in 2002 that he needed a licence because of the amount of erotic items he was selling.
He agreed to reduce his stock as it is legal to sell a small number of erotic items without a licence. Over the following years, Clark started the process to get a licence, but never finished it.
In October 2006, following a complaint from a member of the public, council officers found that 60% of stock on the shop's first floor and 17% on the ground floor were erotic items and prosecuted Clark.
Clark objected to some of the items found in October 2006 being classified as erotic, but agreed that he had pleaded guilty. He said council officers had visited him on at least three occasions between 2002 and 2006 and found nothing wrong with his erotic
stock levels. He added that in October 2006, he had upped his stock ready for a Christmas rush.
Speaking after the case, businessman Andrew Clark, who runs XES with his wife Carol, said: We are ecstatic. It is a victory for lingerie and adult product shops like ours. It was an astronomical amount that would have made us bankrupt and meant
we would have to shut up the shop. I could not find a single unlicensed shop that had been fined for merely having a larger percentage of adult products on display than the council considered appropriate for an unlicensed store.
Fines of that size are unheard of in the adult industry and it was widely criticised for potentially caused huge ramifications because it set a ridiculous precedent. Not only is it myself and my wife who are breathing a huge sigh, but also the entire
Editor Dale Bradford, who reported on the fine in his magazine adult industry magazine ETO, said: I was surprised the case went to court in the first place. There have been lots of retailers prosecuted in the past but always for selling unclassified
DVDs, never for selling a higher percentage of stock than the council deemed necessary. It would be more normal for trading standards to have a quiet word rather than resort to legal action. I am pleased that he has had it reduced to £2,000, although I
still think this is too much.