Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.




Comments are usually moderated. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment. If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

UNPAID LITTER FINES & SIMILAR; PRISON OR THE NAUGHTY STEP?



People of a not so certain age when discussing current social mores will sometimes use the phrase, "in my day" to describe changes which in their opinion are for the worse for each of us as individuals and for us all as "society"; the entity for which Maggie T doubted the existence.


Aged relatives who lived through the horrors of World War 2 on active service and the Blitz at home have described to me [and I presume others can claim similar discussions] that if not "law" but certainly "order" was encouraged if not enforced by individuals be they family, neighbours, bus conductors, train guards or park rangers to name a few. Unless there was direct violence or a risk of such, admonishment from such individuals was enough to oil the wheels of public civility and avoid confrontation with most people including rowdy teenagers most of the time. Street tidiness was a job for local authorities and street cleaners were a common sight keeping the environment clean and tidy and also providing low level employment for those who would otherwise be unemployed or unemployable. A clean and tidy neighbourhood has been shown to reduce disorder especially low level disorder which can blight many lives. The "zero tolerance" concept pioneered in New York City is a direct result of this thinking.


The Keep Britain Tidy Campaign began in 1954 as an initiative of the National Federation of Womens` Institutes. Some might remember the iconic posed picture of Margaret Thatcher tidying up in Trafalgar Square. The Litter Act of 1983 consolidated all previous legislation. Prosecutions for littering are brought under section 87 - Offence of Leaving Litter - of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The offence is:

"A person is guilty of an offence if he throws down, drops or otherwise deposits any litter in any place to which this section applies and leaves it.” However, a person convicted of this offence could be liable to a maximum fine of £2,500 (a level 4 offence on the standard scale). Current criminal prosecutions are conducted by local councils under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2006.Prison awaits those who refuse to pay the fine or are guilty of culpable neglect in not paying.


And that was why Natasha McCabe who left a refuse bag in the street ended up at Manchester Magistrates` Courts. She had pleaded guilty to failing to pay a Fixed Penalty Notice of £80. In the end her littering cost her a total of £319. 

 
It is indeed a sad reflection on our conduct when the criminal law must be applied to such basic anti social behaviour. Singapore has the reputation of being the world`s cleanest city. In 1992 Corrective Work Orders were introduced as an alternative to fines up to S$1,000 [£500] for littering and offenders were required to wear distinctive clothing whilst cleaning streets for a specified number of hours.

There is a vociferous lobby which would dearly like to do away with short custodial sentences. At a stretch, to coin a phrase, they would relax their opposition for violent offenders being removed from society. But generally even when prison is a last resort for the oft quoted council tax defaulters or similar they refuse to acknowledge the need for the final sanction of loss of liberty.  Those holding such opinions are often “green” in their approach to society`s problems and their attitude to litterers is unforgiving. What then must the courts do to an offender in this regard who refuses or neglects to pay the fine imposed after conviction or in absence for ignoring a fixed penalty notice?  Are those who consider such sentencing inappropriate able to impose their own solution in such cases?  Perhaps they would have him treated as a naughty boy.

  
Without entering into any religious context  the original precept for the individual and society to rub along with minimal friction is to do to others what one would ask them to to do to oneself. And that includes taking one`s rubbish home to dispose of carefully [including cigarette ends]

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