Why do some local authorities see the merit in prosecuting offenders for offences such as fly tipping, littering and failing to pick up dog faeces, whilst others don't? There's been much discussion recently in the press relating to this controversial topic and I hope to clarify some of the issues.
Well, for a start, it's politically popular for some - don't the decent council tax payers of the Country like to see a return for their money? Large urban areas in particular have a real issue with waste piling up on street corners. Rural local authorities are perhaps more hesitant due to the perceived cost and effectiveness of covering large areas of open land.
Many local authorities have discovered that it is more cost effective to issue fixed penalty notices to people rather than continuing to spend huge sums of money cleaning up after people. It was Rudy Giuliani, the former controversial Mayor of New York, who said "When you confront a problem you begin to solve it".
One Local Authority for whom I act is in the process of recruiting an additional 50 enforcement officers, so effective has the policy of strict enforcement been. I have to ensure that training is thorough, strict guidelines and procedures are adhered to, whilst ensuring that the evidence against individual offenders is sufficiently strong to warrant prosecution. It is an onerous duty.
However, Councils only prosecute when people fail to pay their Fixed Penalty Notices. It never ceases to amaze me how few people actually turn up at Court to answer their summons - are they too ashamed or do they think the Court will convict them anyway? They'd be right there - Courts do just that.
Was it correct to prosecute the following?
Fly tipping: (a) a householder chose to walk 300 yards to their local bottle bank to dump their household waste when they had 2 empty bins outside their house; (b) numerous householders leaving piles of bin bags on the street days before collection is due; (c) people leaving mattresses, children's paddling pools, barbecues and the like at the side of the road or at a bottle bank, when these should have been taken to the local recycling centres. Some tenants are renowned for anti-social behaviour and conviction can help Councils to evict them.
Smokers: aren't Councils doing smokers (and the NHS) a favour by prosecuting them for dropping their cigarette butts in the street? Excuses I've heard include: (a) I'm pregnant so shouldn't be prosecuted; (b) no bins nearby (aren't Council's supposed to promote the benefits of physical exercise?); (c) fire hazard of using bins (top tip - you can tell when a cigarette is out because it won't burn you when you touch it!).
Spitting, urinating in public and not picking up dog mess - enough said?
Perhaps Mayor Giuliani was right…