Council's nine-month battle with man who dropped orange peel

Sarah Coles
Legal battle over orange peel
Legal battle over orange peel

Luke Gutteridge a 29-year-old golfer from Potter's Bar in Hertfordshire, accidentally dropped a tiny piece of orange peel in the street. He was spotted by a council enforcement office, who tried to slap him with a fine, and kicked off a nine-month legal battle.

Luke peeled an orange in the street and threw away what he thought was all of the peel. However, a nearby enforcement officer spotted that he had accidentally dropped a piece - about the size of a 10p coin. He told Luke, who quickly picked it up and apologised, but that wasn't enough for the enforcement officer, who slapped him with a £75 penalty.

Fined over orange peel
Fined over orange peel

According to the Daily Telegraph, given that he had dropped the peel by mistake, Luke didn't feel he should have to pay the fine, so he decided to take the council on in court. The magistrates found in his favour, agreeing with the Environmental Protection Act of 1990 that littering can only be proven if it is clear that the individual intended to leave it.

It left Broxborough Council to pick up their own legal fees of £4,000 and although the council wasn't ordered to pay Luke's fees, he has put in a request that it ought to meet his costs.
Luke told the Daily Mirror: "It was a waste of the taxpayers money from the start. The council should pay the costs from its own pockets instead of expecting the rate and taxpayers to pay for its own mess."

Litter fines

This isn't the first time a littering case has come to court. We reported back in April on the woman from Coventry who was fined £75 after dropping a cigarette end in the street. She didn't pay - in protest at what she felt was the heavy-handed way enforcement officers treated her. The council then took her to court, and when she was unable to attend, they ordered her to pay a total of £504 in fines and court costs.

It's also not the first time accidental littering has made it this far. In 2008 a mother in Hull accidentally dropped a piece of sausage roll while she was trying to get her four-year-old daughter to eat it. The food had been eaten by a pigeon within seconds, but she was slapped with a fine. She refused to pay it, and the case went to court. The enforcement officers argued that she had dropped the wrapper, but she had shown the wrapper to a reporter, who gave evidence, and the case was dismissed.

Fortunately some councils don't let things go so far. 71-year-old grandmother Valerie George was fined in 2012 after a cotton thread fell off one of her gloves in the street, and an enforcement officer spotted it and issued a £75 fine. However, when she went to the press, the council withdrew the fine, saying pursuing it wasn't 'in line' with their priorities.

But what do you think? Do litter fines go too far, or are they the only way to put people off littering? Let us know in the comments.

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