Pole Axed; Patriotic: Their Father with the Flag on Duty: Richard, Left, and Robert Smithson

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Brooke

PROUD father Robert Smithson was determined to give his twin sons a suitably patriotic welcome when they returned home for the first time since joining the Coldstream Guards.

The 18-year-olds had been standing guard outside Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace after completing their training, so their father thought it fitting to fly the English national flag from the family home.

The local council, however, took a dim view of his gesture.

After receiving a complaint from a member of the public, an official at Sunderland City Council wrote to 42-year-old Mr Smithson threatening him with a fine of up to [pounds sterling]2,500 for illegally flying the flag from his suburban house. The letter said he was breaking planning rules by flying the Cross of St George at the wrong angle.

Because it was horizontal and not vertical it was said to be classed as a form of advertising and required a licence from the local authority.

If he didn't obtain one, he faced prosecution and a [pounds sterling]2,500 fine.

'I would have laughed had the whole thing not been so serious,' he said. 'It was ridiculous.'

Mr Smithson, a gas engineer, said the only way to erect the flag vertically would be to 'wedge it in the drainpipe' where it would be 'less secure' and might fall down.

In the past he has decorated his house in Sunderland with the cross of St George for some England international football matches, but this time it was purely to support his sons Richard and Robert. …