Another council calls in the litter police

Another council – Gravesham Borough Council, in Kent – will contract a private company for the issuing of litter fines.

The Manifesto Club argues that the issuing of fines by private companies on commission can gravely distort the operations of justice and law enforcement (see our report The Corruption of Punishment).

There are several salient points in Gravesham Borough Council’s report about the contract:

There have only been 9 litter fines issued by council and police officers in 2014. This is likely to go up to two or three thousand once the company is contracted.

These private officers being employed by council are acting as a pseudo-police presence:
‘The enforcement officers will also act as a presence in the town centre and it is
proposed that they are linked into the G-Safe network. In Maidstone the
enforcement officers are linked into their town centre radio network and in practice
they have assisted in activities such as apprehending shop lifters.’

Complaints by members of the public will be investigated by the company itself:
‘Any complaints relating to enforcement officers will be investigated by Kingdom
and a report produced for the council in accordance with the procedure set out in
the contract.’

People who are being fined are described as ‘customers':
‘The payment of FPN’s will be managed by Kingdom who will take payments on-line,
by phone and via paypoint. To facilitate the website payment a webpage will be set
up on the Council’s website which will then take the customer through to the
Kingdom payment site’

The company will itself chase unpaid fines:
‘Kingdom will carry out recovery action relating to the chasing of payments and will
provide the Council with the necessary information relating to each case to enable
those cases to be taken to court.’

All in all, it looks very much as if a publicly elected body is calling in the mercenaries and standing back. The possibility of people being unfairly fined doesn’t seem to be recognised as a significant factor.