Shock £60 litter fine after man drops his bookmark

Sarah Coles
David Ellis
David Ellis

David Ellis, a 62-year-old from Liscard, was walking down the street with a cricketing memoir tucked under his arm. He didn't notice that his bookmark had come adrift, and fallen on the ground. At least he didn't until he was stopped by an enforcement officer, who fined him £60 for littering.

The Daily Mail reported that the transport worker was fined by a private litter officer - employed by Wirral Council to crackdown on litterbugs. The council is employing a 'zero tolerance' policy which saw more than 4,700 fines handed out between July and November - amounting to almost £300,000.

The officer pointed out the bookmark on the floor, and David explained: "I said 'I didn't throw it, I just dropped it' I didn't even see it. She then told me I'd broken an Environmental Act and I'd committed an offence and gave me the fixed penalty notice of £60."

The fine, oddly, says it was issued for the dropping of a cigarette end - although David doesn't smoke.
When the Wirral Globe took up the story, the council dropped the fine. A spokesman said: "Enforcement officers carry body-worn cameras which allow all cases to be accurately reviewed. In this instance, having received an appeal and reviewed the evidence, we concluded that there was a genuine element of doubt that Mr Ellis had deliberately dropped this item or was even aware that he had done."

Odd littering

Councils are getting increasingly heavy-handed in their treatment of those they deem to have broken littering rules. It makes sense for cash-strapped authorities. By putting people off littering they can cut the street cleaning budget - while at the same time the fines make them money.

Many of them use private contractors who hand out fines of £75 and return £30 of that to the council. The councils insist that they are not trying to make money, but it's not the kind of side-effect they're doing to be too upset about.

However, it has led to some odd cases. Last week, a woman from Swansea was handed a £50 fine for leaving some bread from her lunch for the pigeons. When the story hit the papers, the council stood by its decision to issue the fine.

At the beginning of this month, a grandmother from Ruthin, North Wales, accidentally let a receipt slip from her fingers when putting it in her purse. A council enforcement officer pounced, and she was fined £75. After she took to social media to complain, a local newsagent started a collection and her neighbours donated what she needed to pay the fine.

A month earlier, a retired couple was fined an incredible £160 for littering. They had been eating cherries together in Canterbury in Kent, and throwing the stones on the ground. As they stood up to leave, they were handed an £80 fine each. The council agreed to refund half the money as a 'goodwill gesture'.

And in some cases it hasn't saved a penny. In July, Luke Gutteridge, a 29-year-old from Potter's Bar, was cleared of a charge of littering brought by Broxbourne Borough Council. He had accidentally dropped a piece of orange peel the size of a 10p piece, and been slapped with a £75 fine. He fought the fine, and after a nine-month battle, the court sided with him. He said the council's legal costs would have at least matched his own of £4,000.

This City Wants to Fine $1,500 For Littering
This City Wants to Fine $1,500 For Littering