Amendment to the Localism Bill
This was proposed by Ian Means MP on 13th May 2011. The amendment was sponsored by the CPRE and the Local Government Association
To see the wording of the amendment click here and go to NC23.
If enacted it would extend S87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and make the” person in charge” of a vehicle responsible for litter dropped from it. This would be deemed to be the “registered keeper” unless, within 21 days, he provides whatever “identifying details as are available to him” of the person he claims was in charge of the vehicle.
As the offence is a criminal one, in the case of a dispute, the local authority would have to prove in a magistrates court that the registered keeper had been in charge of the vehicle “beyond reasonable doubt”.
The criticisms in the press that ” the burden of proof will shift so the registered owner of a car has to provide evidence they were not driving at the time” and that this would be a breach of the “innocent until proved guilty” principal seem therefore to be wide of the mark.
A criticism of the amendment that may have some weight is that the cost of preparing a case for the Magistrates Court when an offender fails to pay a fine may deter some local authorities from using their new powers.
I understand that the Government may oppose this amendment on the grounds that they want to see how parallel legislation applicable to London (see below) works before enacting a nationwide law.
London Local Authorities Act 2007
Being amended by the London Local Authorities Bill 2011
The 2007 Act endeavoured to make the “owner” of a vehicle responsible for litter dropped from it even if he was not in charge of it at the time. Exemptions apply to buses, taxis and rental cars.
Unfortunately S24 proved unworkable due to a drafting error. This will be rectified when the London Local Authorities Bill 2011 is enacted. The drafting error is corrected in Section 17 (1). This is now awaiting the report stage and should become law in a matter of months. For an update on its progress through Parliament please click here
It decriminalises the offence making it a civil matter where the burden of proof is on the “balance of probabilities“. Enforcement will be through a Penalty Charge Notice. Disputes would handled by an adjudicator. As there would be no risk of being drawn into expensive court hearings London Boroughs will have no excuse for not using their new powers. If the revenue raised can be used to offset the costs involved, or even make a profit for ratepayers – so much the better.
Penalty Charge Notices were introduced in the Traffic management Act 2004 - Part 6 Civil enforcement of traffic contraventions