Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 25 Mar 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about two Fixed Penalty Notices for littering. This is because the complainant could have raised a defence in court.
- The complainant, whom I refer to as Mrs X, complains that she had to pay £800 for two Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN). She says this is unfair as she placed the boxes in the bin.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start an investigation if we believe there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I read the complaint and the Council’s response. I looked at photographs of the rubbish and found out what items can be left at the recycling point. I invited Mrs X to comment on a draft of this decision.
What I found
- If the Council thinks someone has committed a littering offence it can serve a FPN. If the person pays the fine the matter is closed. If not, then the Council can prosecute and the person may face a larger fine if convicted in court. If prosecuted the person can raise a defence in court.
- In December the Council issued Mrs X with a FPN for leaving a large cardboard box, containing domestic waste, on top of the recycling bins. The waste included details of Mrs X’s name and address. The recycling point where Mrs X left the waste takes paper, glass, cans and plastic. It does not take cardboard.
- In January the Council issued a second FPN. Mrs X had left cardboard boxes full of waste near the same recycling bins. Again, there was an address label.
- Mrs X challenged the fines but the Council did not cancel them. Mrs X paid £800. Mrs X says she paid to avoid prosecution. Mrs X says she placed the boxes in the bins and someone else must have removed them from the bin. Mrs X wants a refund.
- Mrs X accepts she left boxes at this location but says she placed them in the bin. However, this recycling point does not accept cardboard. I have seen photographs and a large amount of carboard and waste was left. I will not start an investigation because Mrs X could have raised a defence in court if she did not think she had done anything wrong. It would then have been for the court to decide whether she had committed an offence. The Ombudsman does not determine if someone is guilty of an offence.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman