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Littering from vehicles – London experience

On September 25, 2017, in DEFRA, Legislation, Litter fines, by PeterSilverman

In London since 2012 the owner of a vehicle can be given a PCN (Penalty Charge Notice) if litter is seen dropping from his vehicle.

They are issued under the civil law.  In contrast if an FPN, Fixed Penalty Notice,  aka an on-the-spot fine,  for littering goes up-paid the offender is prosecuted in the criminal court.

It appears that the take up by the London Boroughs  has been minimal with possibly only LB Wandsworth having ever issued any PCNs for littering from vehicles

Please refer to Littering from vehicles – legislation

My desk research showed that between April 2016 and April 2016 7 appeals against PCNs for littering from vehicles had been made to London Tribunals. All where for PCNs issued by LB Wandsworth.  It is possible that other London Boroughs had issued PCNs and none had been appealed. A simpler explanation is that only this one borough out of 33 is making use of these powers.

Evidence to Communities & Local Government Select Committee inquiry into litter – 25th Nov 2014

Q87 Simon Danczuk: Mr Morley, how often do you use the powers that London authorities have to issue penalty-charge notices to owners of vehicles that have thrown litter out? It is a bit different in London.

Shaun Morley, Head of Waste Management, London Borough of Wandsworth: Yes. Obviously, we have the benefit of the London Local Authorities Act and, as was mentioned by previous colleagues, we have piloted that. It has been quite successful, in that we have used it to good effect. The enforcement guys have been very successful at it. They have got to understand the likely candidates who are going to throw something out of the window.

Simon Danczuk: They know what they look like.

Shaun Morley,  : They have a pattern. What we have found is that the legislation has not been in place properly for us to take it to its full conclusion. Because it is through PATAS—the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service—and it is a penalty-charge notice, there is a cycle of appeal, etc. and at the end of it, it is not in place. Yes, we have been quite successful and we have a payment rate of about 60%, but if we have to go to the next stage that mechanism is not in place to take it to its final conclusion.

Simon Danczuk: So some improvements are needed and, as a Committee, we need to learn what they are and make recommendations.

Shaun Morley: Yes.

DEFRA commissioned a Scoping Study for Research on Littering from Vehicles which was published in November 2015. Referring to London it said:

The London boroughs have been slow to enforce their ‘litter from vehicles powers’, but there is a lack of robust empirical evidence to help understand where the problems lie.

Two boroughs, who were expecting to begin piloting the new approach, had faced some delays, particularly in setting up the new appeals system. Other boroughs had mentioned difficulties in identifying littering offences using CCTV cameras or the need to reorganise their back office functions to handle enforcement of both civil contraventions and criminal littering offences

 … a witness from Wandsworth Borough Council, giving oral and written evidence to the 2014/15 House of Commons Inquiry into Litter & Fly-tipping, reported that the early problems they experienced with administering the London PCN were associated with the appeals process and in enforcing payments, as there was no standard paperwork in place to enable bailiffs to obtain a warrant from the County court (as happens with parking and emission related PCN)

… there was reluctance amongst London Boroughs to participate in the pilot but two did eventually take part. The evidence from these two respondents does illustrate the implementation issues arising from the London Local Authorities Act 2012. Only one of these authorities had started to use PCNs to enforce against littering from vehicles. The other London Borough stated they had not started to use PCNs because they did not believe that littering from vehicles was a main problem within their borough, and had higher priorities then setting up a civil process to tackle littering from vehicles.

“We haven’t used a PCN yet, it’s a relatively new legislation we are building the process into ours; obviously the warning letters are a little different so we have to make sure we understand how it works. I don’t know when we will start issuing PCNs for littering from vehicles, we have a raft of offences we want to utilise these types of notices for”. – Croydon Council

In the case of the one London Borough that had started to use a PCN system, they had experienced a lot of problems in firstly processing this type of fine, and then subsequently recovering the fine as a civil debt.

“Only last year when we started issuing controlled numbers of PCNs as part of a trial did it become apparent that no consideration had been given by the legislators to the fact that the county court cannot process cases unless they also have allocated official contravention codes. These codes are hard to come by as most are already taken for traffic contraventions. The codes have now been allocated so theoretically we can now send unpaid cases to court however no one has yet to my knowledge and it is still unclear what paperwork will have to be completed and how easy it will be to get the court to process it alongside all the other offences they already deal with. I suggested we should have individualised paperwork as the processes involved for our offences are different from parking offences but that has not happened (so far) due to red tape.” – London Borough of Wandsworth

Peter Silverman
25th September 2017





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