The campaign group North Wales Against Kingdom Security is helping two smokers who were fined for putting lit cigarettes on the ground for a moment.
In one case, a bus driver got off the coach and lit a cigarette outside the door. An elderly gentleman wanted to come down the stairs, so the bus driver put his cigarette on the floor, and helped the man off. He then picked the cigarette and finished it but an operative leapt in and issued him a fixed penalty notice in the meantime.
In another case, a lady (who is is disabled and uses a mobility scooter) was with her son and daughter and grandson, all of whom hate her smoking. They had finished shopping and were returning to the car. The lady was on an important private call, and so when she reached the car first she got in the passenger seat while still on the phone. She put the cigarette down temporarily outside the door so as not to make the car smell. She had not left the cigarette, and intended to finish it after the call.
There was a knock on the window and an enforcement officer was there. The lady showed her the phone and carried on. Meanwhile, her son picked up the cigarette and put it in the bin.
The lady finished her call and opened the window. She was asked for her details and issued a fixed penalty notice. At no time had she left the cigarette and it ended up in the bin before the FPN was issued.
The North Wales campaign group points out that the offence of littering is someone who deposits litter ‘and leaves it’. In neither case had these people left their litter; they were intending to pick the cigarette up and finish it, and indeed in both cases had picked it up before the fine was issued.
The group is attempting to obtain the operative’s camera footage to prove the disabled lady’s version of events. Initially the council passed them from pillar to post, without seeming to know who at the enforcement company should be contacted. Eventually, the group reached the right person in the private enforcement company, but they were refused the right to view the video on the grounds that ‘disclosure would harm the prevention or detection of crime, or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders’. The company said that if the woman paid the FPN, she would be able to view the footage.
This shows how due process is being ignored and twisted, if a person must pay a fine (and accept liability for an offence) in order to view the evidence against them.
As Peter Rourke from North Wales Against Kingdom Security says: ‘Our team can think of no reason why the video would be prejudicial.’ The group says that access to the video is essential and has often been used to overturn cases where the enforcement officer did not give a full account of events. They will continue to seek justice for these members of the public.