Huge rise in on-the-spot fines

Eric PicklesThe number of on-the-spot fines issued by public authorities each year has seen a 16-fold increase in the last decade, campaigners revealed.

The number of fixed penalty notices issued by police, local authorities and schools has risen to 226,640 in 2011/12, from 13,926 in 2001/02, the Manifesto Club report said.

Communities Minister Eric Pickles is to warn councils against using residents as "cash cows" as the report showed the level of fines moving in line with targets and bonuses.

Some 1.65 million on-the-spot fines have been issued since 2004 for incidents ranging from serious crimes like theft to trivial offences such as putting up lost-cat posters.

Josie Appleton, who wrote the report and oversees the Manifesto Club's campaigns, said: "Too often, public authorities' answer to every problem is simply to dole out fines. This is lazy at best and profiteering at worst.

"On-the-spot fines have their place for procedural violations such as parking, but this unprecedented expansion to criminal justice and the public services is a recipe for injustice and corruption.

"The vast majority of these 200,000 incidents would be better dealt with in some other way, whether that is through a court trial or a telling off."

Some 9,522 fines have been issued since 2004 for public drinking, 414,691 fines have been handed out for causing harassment, alarm or distress, which includes swearing, while 1,122 fines were given for unlicensed leafleting.

The report argues that on-the-spot fines have extended punishment into new areas of "minor misdemeanour or perfectly innocent behaviour" as well as being used to tackle social problems such as truancy and street drinking.

Mr Pickles, Communities and Local Government Secretary, said: "Local councils should not be using residents as cash cows and persecuting people for petty or insignificant breaches of municipal rules."

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