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…

The injustice of fining parents for a family holiday

Parents are organising against the increasing habit of fining families who take their kids on holiday in term-time. Fines for truancy have grown astronomically – from 3,483 in 2004-5, to 32,641 in 2011-12, to the record 52,370 in 2012-13. In many councils the majority of these fines are issued to holidaying families (two thirds of the total in Kent, for example). Prosecutions for truancy have also grown, reaching 8000 in 2012-13. One couple recently received criminal records for taking their kids on holiday to Australia. It is likely that fines in the 2013-14 school year will be greater still, after a regulatory…

Fined for drying a bench in Glasgow

I have just received a letter from an elderly gentleman in Glasgow, who was fined earlier this year while in the process of drying a bench. He has arthritis and wanted to sit down; he had one handkerchief but the bench was still wet, so he left the tissue for a minute to go to a cafe opposite to get some more tissues and finish the job. Yet no sooner had he stepped away from his bench, he was approached by a warden who slapped him with a fine for littering. He explained that he hadn’t left the tissue, he was only…

Is feeding the birds now a crime in the UK?

Is feeding the birds now a crime in the UK? Judging from the number of recent cases involving crust-scattering pensioners, you would have to conclude, yes. A woman in Blaenau Gwent was fined £125 for throwing a piece of bread roll for the birds out of her car window. In another recent case, a Devon woman was fined for ‘littering peanuts while feeding pigeons’. The Blaenau Gwent fine was issued by private security guards, paid on a commission basis, with a propensity to fine for negligible offences. (This is the company that issued a fine for a thread of cotton falling off…

Fines for parents who don’t read to their kids

The Ofsted chief has said that schools should have the power to fine parents who don’t read to their children, or who miss school events. This is the latest extension of on-spot fines, which are increasingly seen as the sole form of persuasion or sanction, and the answer to every social problem. The fine is the one way in which a school can communicate with parents, apparently. A school – an institution which is supposed to have a shared interest with parents in the education of their children – increasingly exerts authority through the use of coercive, pecuniary penalties. There are also…

The Corruption of Punishment

A new Manifesto Club report shows how local authorities are using litter fines as a money-making operation. People are being fined for increasingly trivial incidents – from dropping a match stick, to a piece of cotton falling off a glove. More worryingly, often these fines are given out by private companies who are working on a commission basis. The report argues that such profiteering punishment works against the interests of justice and public service. We recommend that fines be used only in proportion to the offence, and when necessary for the public interest. Download the report: The Corruption of Punishment Responses to…

Parking fine whilst giving blood

I just received this email from a lady whose husband was fined whilst giving blood. This was the first day of the introduction of parking fines on a Sunday, and he unknowingly fell foul of the rules while doing his good deed. “I was shocked that Derby City Council wouldn’t cancel my husband’s parking fine while he was in a centre donating blood. Even though the National Blood Service issued me with written proof to send to the council they wouldn’t refund the penalty. It was on the first day that parking fees were introduced on a Sunday. My husband has always…

Acquittal of woman for cigarette butt fine

In a promising verdict, a court has acquitted a mother on the charge of dropping a cigarette butt. The fine was given out by the private company, XFOR, which is paid on commission by the council to fine people for littering offences. This pay-as-they-punish justice is liable to create over-hasty and erratic punishment. So this aquittal is promising and a sign that the courts can act as a check on unjust fines. As the mother put it, “They should get proof before they go accusing people.” Read on: http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/gwentnews/9714867.Ebbw_Vale_mum___s_relief_at_fag_end_verdict/?ref=nt

1000 people fined for dropping cigarette butts in Exeter

This is Exeter finds that 1000 people have been fined for dropping cigarette butts – many of them were fined £100 or more. Of course, people shouldn’t drop cigarette butts. But fines on this level look less like a reasonable penalty, and more like a money-making venture. Many councils are now making thousands of pounds from littering fines, and the tighter their finances become the more predatory wardens send out on the street to nick people. In fact, the issue of littering is better dealt with through public provision of (cigarette-butt-friendly) litter bins – and public education, encouraging people to take pride…