When did this happen - and who did it?

A case, of White Van Man being cruelly oppressed by the authorities or a righteous protection of the environment

A council is refusing to back down and cancel a roofer's £300 fine- which he claims was for keeping empty crisp packets in his work van without a rubbish licence.

Stewart Gosling, 43, kept the stash of empty crisp packets and water bottles in a plastic commercial waste bag in the back of his white van.

But when he was pulled over by council workers carrying out spot checks, they told him he was breaking the law for carrying the rubbish without permission.

It is, of course, that delight the European Union and law derived from it that leads to such. We tend to think that £300 for a crisp packet or two is a bit too much as a fine. But that's not the important point here, not at all:

A Waltham Forest Council spokesman said: 'The waste in this case was being transported in commercial refuse bag in the trader’s vehicle.

'Regardless of what the items are, if waste is being stored in a commercial refuse bag in a trader’s van it is necessary that they have a valid waste carriers’ license (sic).

'It is widely recognised as best practice for tradesmen to be licensed to avoid legal repercussions, in the event they are required to transport even small quantities of waste.'

That the anal retentive prodnoses appear to be in charge of society is also not something we favour but that's not the important point here either.

The Americans are rather ahead of us on this, given their constitutional prohibition upon unreasonable search and seizure. Yet we also insist that the police are not allowed to just randomly stop anyone and test them for drunk driving. There must be some cause, some reason to think that the offence might be being committed. Erratic driving for example.

Equally it's an important part of the British dispensation that we do not carry ID, that we do not have to prove ourselves to any passing official or policeman. The inquiry "And who are you, what are you doing here?" can be and is righteously answered by "Going about my lawful business, Constable." 

Then, under the guise of this environmental law, we've granted every local council in the country the right to stop any vehicle and inspect it for empty crisp packets. An authoritarian breach of basic civil liberties is an authoritarian breach of basic civil liberties whatever the justification.

And that actually is the point here. Sure, the justification is the maintenance of our green and pleasant land but we've still just ceded much too much power to the State.  That it's the local councils, not the police or the immigration authorities, insisting "Your papers please" as of right is not an improvement.

It is not that we the people are some problem to be managed by them, we appoint them simply to do society's scut work for us. The problem here is that they've taken unto themselves powers that State never should have in the first place, to be able to demand we prove our innocence at their pleasure.