The issuing of fixed penalty notices is one of the means by which the problem of littering and dog fouling offences are being tackled within the district. Since the smoke free legislation came into force in 2007, there has also been a decline in street cleanliness due to an increase of cigarette waste. This is reflected not only in the statistics but also in environmental quality surveys that record cigarette waste as being the most prevalent waste upon our streets.
Set out below are some of the more common Q & As associated with Fixed Penalty Notices.
What is a Fixed Penalty Notice?
A Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) is a notice served by an authorised enforcement officer, such as a street scene enforcement officer, to a person who has committed a criminal offence. FPNs may be issued on the spot or through the post. By paying this fine it means you agree that you have committed the offence, no further action will be taken against you and you can avoid being prosecuted in the criminal courts or receiving a criminal conviction.
Can I appeal against a Fixed Penalty Notice that I have been issued?
There are no formal grounds of appeal against a Fixed Penalty Notice. This is because a Fixed Penalty Notice is an invitation for you to effectively “buy off” your liability to prosecution. In essence this means that whilst this is not an admission of guilt, you agree that an offence has been committed and that by paying the sum of money specified no further action will be undertaken by the Council. This method of dealing with offences not only saves the time involved for everyone (including the offender) in prosecuting cases at Court, but the cost associated with a Fixed Penalty Notice is likely to be substantially lower than any fine imposed by the Courts. For example the maximum penalty that can be imposed by the Courts for littering is £2500.
What happens if I don't pay?
If payment of the fixed penalty notice is not made within a specified amount of time, we will refer the matter to the courts for prosecution.
But I don’t agree that I committed the offence for which I have received a Fixed Penalty Notice?
If you do not agree that you committed the offence for which you received the Fixed Penalty Notice then the matter will be dealt with through the formal prosecution via the Courts. It will then be up to the Court, on receiving evidence, to determine whether or not an offence was committed and therefore whether or not any penalty should be imposed. Effectively this means that the formal court route becomes the mechanism for those wishing to appeal a Fixed Penalty Notice. It should be noted that the financial penalty imposed by the Courts could be significantly greater than that which is imposed through a Fixed Penalty Notice.
I don’t see why I should pay if there are no signs about littering or fouling in the area where I dropped it / my dog fouled?
The Local Authority is not required to place signs in every street, road, highway or open park / space to tell people not to litter or to leave dog mess, or inform them that patrols are operating in the area. Litter and fouling legislation has been in force for many years and Local Authorities right across the Country are now actively issuing Fixed Penalty Notices in order to drive the message home to those who spoil our Towns and Cities by carelessly discarding their rubbish or not picking up after their dog has fouled.
Why should I pay a Fixed Penalty Notice when there were no litter bins nearby at the time?
As with signage it is not feasible for the Local Authority to place litter bins in every street, road or highway in the district, though of course every effort is made to place bins where they are most needed and where the greatest level of pedestrian footfall, such as in town centres. Where bins are not available then it is up to everyone to act responsibly and make arrangements to either take their litter home or carry it until a litter bin is available.
What is classed as "litter"?
The term "litter" covers a wide range of items, which can include such things as cigarette butts, food waste, packaging or a bag of waste discarded on the street. Littering can take place on any land (public or private) in the open air to which the public have access to. It is a criminal offence that carries a fine of up to £2,500 and could leave you with a criminal record.
I received a Fixed Penalty Notice for stubbing out a cigarette, surely that cannot be considered littering?
Litter includes not only cigarette butts but chewing gum also. In many ways these items are more of a nuisance and more expensive to clean up than other items of rubbish.
But cigarette stubs aren’t really waste as they can’t be placed in litter bins because they will catch fire?
Smokers are responsible for ensuring that they completely extinguish their cigarettes before placing them in the bin. Cigarette waste is the same as any other waste in terms of litter laws and you can be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for not disposing of cigarette stubs properly. Obviously care should be taken to avoid any risk of fire and in particular cigarette ends should be completely extinguished on the stubbing plates provided on many litter bins before the stub is thrown into the bin. There is also no reason why smokers (who are well aware that their habit means they will be faced with disposing of their cigarette waste) cannot carry portable ‘butt bins’ with them or create their own by placing soil or sand in a small tin.
But I put my cigarette stub in a drain?
Cigarette butts don’t disappear by disposing your cigarette butt in a drain; you are still littering. These can block drains and be harmful to waterways and wildlife. Cigarette butt litter can also pose a hazard to animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food.
If I pick up the litter after an officer has approached me, do I still receive a fine?
Littering offences relate to the dropping / depositing of litter and the abandonment of it so whether or not you later volunteer to pick up your litter, you have still committed an offence if you originally walked away and so you will receive a FPN.
What is the offence of dog fouling?
It is an offence not to clean up after your dog forthwith, as soon as it has happened, on any land which is open to the air and to which the public are permitted to have access- this includes pavements and parks.
It is not a defence to say...
- I am coming back to pick the faeces up later
- I didn't see my dog foul
- I haven't got a doggy bag on me
What is the best way to clear up after a dog?
Use a doggy bag, or a carrier bag, to pick up the faeces. Ideally, this should then be placed in a designated dog bin. If this is not possible, take the bag home or put it in a normal litter bin.
But I wasn’t given any warning about the offence, surely that’s not fair?
Over the last few years significant amounts of money have been spent both nationally and locally on educational and awareness raising campaigns. Such publicity has included posters, advertising and articles in the press, on the radio and TV. On top of this organisations like the Keep Britain Tidy Group do an excellent job in helping to get the anti littering and dog fouling messages over. Of course all the publicity in the world is of no use whatsoever if the message is being ignored. Therefore we take our enforcement duties seriously and back up what is an important message with real action. This is the aim of our enforcement patrols which seek to target those who choose to ignore the laws which the vast majority abide by.
How do you pay a fine
When you pay, please quote:
- The fixed penalty reference number (at the top of the Fixed Penalty Notice)
- Your name and address
NOTE: You cannot make payment to the Officer issuing you with a Fixed Penalty Notice.
Can I pay my fine by instalments?
No, you cannot pay the fine in instalments.
What if I have difficulty paying the fine?
If you have difficulty paying the fine you should contact the council to discuss the issue.
What happens to the money you get from fines?
All income from fines is put back into improving the local environment.
Do you fine young people?
The fines only apply to those aged 18 or over. Anyone younger will be given a warning notice and a letter will be sent to their parents or legal guardian. If they are obstructive, evasive or aggressive towards the officer, legal action may be taken.
What happens if someone refuses to give their details to an authorised officer?
It is an offence to fail to give your name, or give a false address to an authorised officer when asked and you could be prosecuted for failing to give these details.