July 25 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Driver fumes at prospect of £2,500 cigarette drop fine
A Suffolk man has been threatened with a possible £2,500 fine for dropping a cigarette butt from the window of his car.
Steve Elliott was reported by a district council officer for littering in Melton, near Woodbridge, and sent an £80 fixed penalty through the post.
But the 54-year-old from Saxmundham has refused to pay the fine – which would have been reduced to £60 if settled within a week – and could now be hit by a maximum £2,500 fine if convicted at court.
Mr Elliott said he was prepared to go before magistrates because Suffolk Coastal District Council had offered him no other way of appealing against the fine.
The marketing agent for a local home improvement firm had been driving a car supplied by his insurance provider, having been involved in a collision on the A12 just days before the alleged littering offence took place.
He therefore faces a separate £30 administration charge for the fine notice being redirected from Enterprise Rent-A-Car to his address.
“Someone clearly called up with my number plate and took it upon themselves to fine me with no chance to appeal,” said Mr Elliott.
“I appreciate that rules are rules, but I don’t see how they can prove it was me.
“It feels as though I’m being treated like a common criminal. My wife is recovering from an operation and was very upset to learn about it.
“The council said the fine would be reduced if I paid within a week, but that had already elapsed by the time I got the letter. I’m determined to fight this all the way if I have to.”
According to the council, littering is an offence under Section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which gives officers power to issue fixed penalty notices, which, if not paid, could be dealt with by magistrates and result in a fine of up to £2,500.
In 2007, new laws come into force along with the smoking ban, making smokers liable for an £80 fine for dropping a cigarette end in the street.
Mr Elliott said he felt that on-the-spot fines for littering were excessive, but Phil Barton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said local councils were right to impose penalties.
He added: “Litter remains a serious and expensive problem costing over £1billion every year to taxpayers in England. Cigarette litter is the country’s worst litter problem and is found on more than 82% of sites, rising to a staggering 99% in many town centres and main retail areas.
“Recent Keep Britain Tidy research shows that smokers know that cigarette butts are litter – but different ‘rules’ apply because it is on fire, small, cigarette butts on the floor are commonplace, they are smelly and are incorrectly perceived to be biodegradable.
“Keep Britain Tidy believes that it’s right that people who drop cigarette ends are fined, as it sends out a message that littering is unacceptable.
“However, fining should run alongside education and campaigning and not be seen as a solution in itself. We would urge smokers not to treat the streets like a giant ashtray and to dispose of their cigarette butts responsibly in a bin or ashtray or carry a suitable container with them so that they can take their butts home.”
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