The issuing of fixed penalty notices is one of the means by which the problem of littering and dog fouling offences are being tackled by local authorities across the UK. 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.
Where do NES Environmental Enforcement Officers powers and authority come from?
They are delegated from the local authorities we work for with clearly defined parameters of authority. Our officers will enforce all legislation in accordance to the law and in line with the enforcement policy of the local authority.
Are all NES Environmental Enforcement Officers vetted?
Yes. All our officers are screened and vetted by DBS in compliance with British Standard 7858:2012.
Who designates what legislation NES Environmental Enforcement Officers enforce?
This is set out in either a contract or service level agreement with each council and is signed off by both parties prior to any patrol deployment.
Are NES Environmental Enforcement Officers remunerated against the number of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) they issue?
No. All of our Officers are paid an hourly rate and do not receive any bonuses whatsoever.
Are there any exemptions in relation to whom the NES Environmental Enforcement Officers can issue an FPN to?
Yes. These exemptions are determined by the enforcement policy of the local authority and normally include members of the public with proven physical and mental disabilities. Additionally, some local authorities include additional exemptions such as children and elderly members of the community.
Why do Environmental Enforcement Officers wear Body Worn Cameras and when are they operated?
These are used to protect the public and our Officers from being subject to spurious complaints or intimidation by offenders seeking to avoid paying the issued penalty. The cameras are only switched on at the point the Officer introduces him/herself to the alleged offender and it is explained why the camera is in operation. The camera is turned on during the interaction only and does not record the alleged offence, this can then either be served as evidence or unused material dependent if an alleged offender does not pay the issued fixed penalty notice.
Who has the final say in whether an alleged offender is prosecuted?
The decision always lies with the local authority.
How can the public have confidence that NES Environmental Enforcement Officers always act responsibly?
Our Environmental Enforcement Officers are specialists in their field. They receive intensive introductory training and ongoing professional development to maintain the high standards required by the local authorities they serve. There is Body Worn Camera footage of every interaction between our Officers and members of the public. Any complaints against our Officers can be made to local authorities and are handled in line with established procedures
What is a fixed penalty notice?
A Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) is a notice served by an authorised enforcement officer to a person who has committed a criminal offence. The notice gives an alleged offender the opportunity of paying a fixed amount (set by the local authority) as an alternative to being prosecuted and the possibility of receiving a fine and criminal conviction.
How much is a Fixed Penalty Notice?
The price of a Fixed Penalty Notice is set by each local authority in accordance with penalty levels set by Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The set penalty limits will be dependent on the severity of the offence. See below the offences and set limits
Can I appeal a Fixed Penalty Notice?
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. This means that while 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 fine which can be imposed by the courts for littering is £2,500.
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 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 can be significantly more 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 dog fouling in the area?
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.
But I wasn’t given any warning about the offence, surely that’s not fair?
Over the past decade local authorities across the UK have spent significant amounts of money both nationally and locally on educational and awareness raising campaigns. Such publicity includes posters, advertising and articles in the press and across social media platforms, on the radio and TV. On top of this organisations like Keep Britain Tidy and Hubbub do an excellent job in helping to raise awareness regarding littering and dog fouling. Unfortunately, all the publicity in the world is of no use whatsoever if the message is being ignored by irresponsible members of our society. Therefore, we take our enforcement duties seriously and back up what is an important message with intelligence led patrolling and 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.
What happens if I refuse to pay the fixed penalty notice?
You may be prosecuted for the offence shown on the Fixed Penalty Notice.
Why should I pay a Fixed Penalty Notice when there were no litter or dog bins nearby at the time?
As with signage it is not feasible for the council to put litter bins in every street, road and highway in the borough, though of course every effort is made to place bins where they are most needed and where there are the greatest levels of pedestrian footfall, such as in town centres, major shopping areas, parks and open spaces. 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.
I received a Fixed Penalty Notice for dropping a cigarette butt, surely that can’t be considered littering?
Litter includes not only cigarette butts but also chewing gum. 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.
I have limited funds and I will not be able to pay within the 14 days what can I do?
You can make a representation to the council using the details given at the bottom of the fixed penalty notice issued to you and explain your circumstances, this will be reviewed and you may be granted an extended period to pay the Fixed Penalty Notice.
Where do the Enforcement Officers patrol?
The Officers are tasked to areas of highest demand and will patrol wherever there is evidence of littering. It has been shown that Town Centres are hotspot areas and cigarette butts are the most common item of dropped litter.
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.
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.