Concerns raised over ‘heavy handed’ new litter enforcement officers

Posted On 05 May 2016 at 1:57 pm

Brighton and Hove’s new litter cops have been accused of heavy handedness by pouncing on unsuspecting young smokers with £75 fines for dropping cigarette butts – but refusing to disclose any evidence of an offence.

butt by Jessica Lucia on Flickr
The new enforcement officers began work in the city two months ago, with a remit of fining litterbugs, fly-tippers and people allowing their dogs to foul on pavements.

But the officers, employed by private company 3GS which has been contracted by Brighton and Hove City Council, have been accused of hitting easy targets and using intimidating methods to get them to cough up.

One young woman who says she was given an unfair fine is Anna Haigh, who was followed by two enforcement officers into Subway after putting her cigarette butt in an ashtray by the town hall – or so she thought.

She said: “Apparently my cigarette hit the side of the ash tray/ bin and hit the floor. I can’t prove that that happened, for all I know my butt went in the ash tray with no problem.

“I’ve emailed them but have been told there is no appeals process. I asked for evidence but they said they can’t give it as it might have to be used in court. So I just have to cough up my money because two strange men said so?

“The two men stayed for hours in the same place clearly waiting to catch people out. I’m not in a position financially to be paying that kind of money for something I either didn’t do, or did do accidentally.

“I actually don’t think it’s an awful idea to fine people who litter, but I think they’ve employed a bunch of petty jobsworths to do the dirty work and they’re unfairly fining people who don’t deserve a fine. It’s a good idea, very badly executed.”

Another young woman slapped with a fine was Daisy Shepherd, 19, who was fined for putting her cigarette out on the pavement despite immediately offering to put it in the bin.

Daisy’s mother Mandy Jude said she has paid the fine as she feared it could reach four figures if it went to court, but says the punishment is out of all proportion to the offence.

She said: “She was with three friends who were giving out fliers to local shops, and the litter police stopped them and fined them for not having a licence.

“Daisy went to put her cigarette out on the pavement, and they said that’s an offence – she apologised and said she didn’t realise and offered to put the butt in the bin, but they said it was too late.

“She knows another boy who was fined for dropping his cigarette outside the cafe he works at, even though he sweeps all the rubbish up outside at the end of the day.

“I know it’s not good to put cigarettes out on the street, but she did say she wanted to put it in the bin.”

3GS was formed in 2012 by property developer and then-Hillingdon Tory councillor Paul Buttivant, who has previously tried to buy Wrexham FC and Plymouth Argyle.

It is currently hiring more enforcement officers in Brighton and Hove at a salary of £17,992 a year – about £1,000 more than 3GS offers in most other parts of the country.

A council spokesperson said:  “We are  aware of concerns being expressed about the behaviour of some of our enforcement officers and can assure residents that any complaints will be fully investigated.

“We will continue to work closely with 3GS to ensure that fines are issued fairly and correctly and that this new scheme is effective in its aims – to tackle the problem of litter in the city and keep the streets clean.

“Details about the scheme, how evidence is gathered and the appeals process can be found on the council’s website.”

Each year the council receives dozens of complaints from residents about fly-tipping, litter and other antisocial behaviour and the issues are often raised at residents groups and community meetings.

The scheme was approved by councillors last year and 3GS was awarded the contract following a competitive tendering process. Enforcement officers wear uniforms and body cameras to gather evidence and identify offenders.

The council has warned that those issued with a fixed penalty notice who refuse to pay could end up in court and not only be ‘named and shamed’ but also landed with a much higher penalty and possibly court costs.

No targets have been set for issuing fines and 3GS is prohibited from paying its officers any form of performance pay, commission or bonuses linked in any way to the number of tickets individual officers issue.

Tickets for littering are issued under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Cleaner Neighbourhoods Environment Act 2005 and the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003.

  1. Joe ifill-hosier Reply

    If they are using body worn cameras they have to have a license The only people who do not need a license of the emergency services if they do not have cctv licenses they are committing offence

  2. Kitcat ate my hamster Reply

    If asked for your name and address, tell them to feck off. What are they going to do, follow you all the way home?

  3. Emma Reply

    I received a fine today as said above I didn’t realise this was in force, it was only after this incident that a friend sent me a link to this article. They are ruthless I was outside Churchill sq this morning on a break and whilst having an emotional coversation with my mum I did drop it and walk off when an offender approached me I offered to put it in the bin and explained I was having a bad day and saw I was on the phone and asked me to hang up on the call and I explained that I was talking my mum but I could move it away from my face. He wouldn’t have any of it and issued me the fine I did cry as my mum has breast cancer and the conversation was important and didn’t need this stress. I called the number provided and they said there’s no appeals process

  4. Annie Reply

    These thugs cornered my mum while she was on her way to the pharmacy for dropping a cigarette butt, they even held onto her as if she was going to try and run away (she’s 51, 5ft tall and is sick) they grabbed her prescription and even accused her of lying about her name. Once they issued the fine and left her in the street having an anxiety attack which is when she rung me to help me calm her down. She hasn’t left the house since and is traumatised by the way she was unnecessarily handled and treated. These ‘enforcement’ officers are bully’s and obviously get a kick out intimidating and punishing people, they always go around in a group and surround their targets. Funny how they only seem to be going for the young, elderly or women. We’re yet to see them down west street on a Saturday night ‘enforcing’ the no littering policy…unlikely that we ever will.

  5. Brian Reply

    Have written a letter of complaint to the council to remove these thuggish goons from the street. They are clearly just operating for profit without attending the worst affected areas, following and essentially entrapping easy targets for money i.e. smokers. I was fined for putting a biodegradable paper hand-rolled cigarette without a filter down the drain then they held their foot against office door I was trying to enter so that I was unable to.

    Am sorry to hear of others’ far more traumatic experiences with them

  6. peter Reply

    I saw 2 ‘enforcement officers’ going through the overflow of paper next to the recycling bins in preston park. I don’t know for sure but i’m guessing they were going to fine the people who left it there if there was any evidence of addresses.

  7. Paul Zwierzanski Reply

    We run a store out in Portslade west of brighton and this morning (06-01-17) we had an enforcement officer enter our premises and demanded to see waste certificates and said he was going to issue us with a fixed penalty, and guess what, we had not done anything!
    We were being fined for an act a delivery driver had done by putting the plastic wrap in the large waste bin with our address on it! We had no idea he had done this otherwise I would have put it in our waste as we do things by the book here. There is NO way to appeal this, pay your fine only. I shall certainly be taking this police state approach further.

  8. Liz Storey Reply

    Seems like everyone who has commented on this is someone who does not know the law – it is anti-social behaviour and a crime to drop any litter anywhere – people who leave litter are lazy, selfish and immoral and don’t give a damn about anyone else – people have to pay taxes to clean up after litterers who are polluting the planet and putting animals in danger – we need more enforcement officers and far higher penalties – you should all take a long hard look at yourselves before breaking the law, which has been in force for many years.

  9. Dan Reply

    Agreed how do cigarette smokers actually feel it is fine to just flick there cigarette butts on the floor. Would they do the same if they were at home ,…probably.

  10. joe blogs Reply

    they dont have any powers of arrest or can not detain you .dont tell them your details then follow u say call the police got you on camra been follows but its all lies .just walk away get on a bus or get a taxi out the way done it so many times in few town .use give them fauls details years ago but now they check the address

  11. Eddie Vedder Reply

    Got caught by these guys dropping a cigarette stub on the floor. I dont use filters so this is plant and thin paper that when you wipe your foot over it. Its gone! it has zero impact on the environment.
    Anyways its against the law and I’ve paid the fine.
    My problem is they said it was anti social. The whole time these guys were stood next to a homeless gentleman who was sat right in front of the walkway for entry to the train station clearly wasted and lost. They were wearing Brighton and Hove city council badges.
    I have heard that the company you pay the fine to get 2 thirds of the profit from these fines. Meaning what the council benefit is next to nothing. I felt that if we had people employed by the council to really work to make sure that the homeless had a place to sleep. I feel Brighton would be a lot better place to live than the anti social aspects of tobacco and rizla. I asked these guys about why they were fining hard working members of the public instead of helping the truly anti social aspects. These guys said that, that was the reponsibility of not them but the police. I pointed at there jackets and said it was totally there responsibility. I also had a very interesting thought come over me. I felt that what I should really be doing is taking the 75 pounds out the bank on the spot and finding room, board and a meal for a man that clearly needed it. While saving people from truly sad and pathetic situation regarding facing the catastrophe of the homeless situation in Brighton as well as anti socail behaviour. Also what people dont get about this is that people with a conscience are the ones that pay the fine. Real repeat litterers (more than tobacco and rizla) would not even stop to talk to the officers as they have a real descent that creates there action. All these guys are doing is taking alot of money from good people who make mistakes. Especially as there is no caution or warning or offer to make it right by picking up the litter. And I really feel that these services cant operate effectively in Brighton unless you see some real action taken by the council to aid there devastating homeless situation.
    Finally the whole experience of big brother did not want me to be better in the future, even though my conscience will dictate as much. The experience really begged me to throw as much litter around behind there backs as I could find.

  12. Barney Reply

    Based on what I’ve just read, these thugs are acting both unlawfully and illegally (two different things).

    To lay a hand on someone is an assault. Taking things from them is theft. Following people is harassment. Surrounding people and/or preventing them from going on their way is threatening behaviour.

    I’m not a lawyer, but unless there’s been a recent change to the law, only the courts can issue fines. Anything else is a “request” to pay.

    Don’t give them your name and address. Instead ask for THEIR names. If/when a “request for payment” arrives through the post, I’d suggest either signing it and returning it (considered “payment” under common law) or writing to inform them that only a court is authorised to impose a fine. Remember to use the words “without prejudice” at the top of your letter and on any subsequent pages.

    Alternatively, just write NO CONTRACT – RETURN TO SENDER and put it back in the post (even if it’s been opened). The term “no contract” has specific meanings in law.

    The same advice applies when supermarkets (or their contractors) attempt to “fine” people for parking “too long” while shopping. These private companies CANNOT issue fines, though they pretend they can. Don’t pay.

    I accept that it’s “illegal” and anti-social to drop litter, even cigarette butts, but there are very few facilities for disposing of these, so what are smokers supposed to do? Set fire to our pockets?

    If you drop something, pick it up, then regardless of what they say, you’ve done nothing wrong.

    Hired thugs are NOT the police, and only the courts can issue fines, so just walk away, and if they won’t let you do that, call the police and have them charged.

  13. T Calt Reply

    Would anybody be interested in getting together for a joint court case? I have been issued a fine for smoking and I don’t smoke. How do I appeal that? I’ve asked for the video and been told there is no appeals process.

    I refuse to pay 80 quid I don’t have, I’m sick and signed off from work . I get £35 a week for food and housing until I’m well enough to work again (I’ve worked my entire life). Do they expect me to not eat for over 2 weeks?

    If I don’t pay in the next few days, I will owe 15x this amount. I suffer anxiety, OCD (I’m obsessed with keeping things clean and I have never dropped litter in public in my entire life. I HAVE to put it in the bin or carry it with me until I find a place to put it).

    Other people who have been fined and feel that the fine does not equal the crime. We need to get together and take this further. I want compensation for the stress . I’ve been too anxious to leave my house for a week from the way they treated me. I thought I was being attacked when the enforcement officer grabbed my arm, sun me round, read me my rights and was up in my face.. I think he was trying to get the body cam clipped to his shirt literally in my face to record me.

    I was confused as it happened so fast. He didn’t explain himself at all. He demanded my address and I thought giving it to him would get rid of him.

    He then accused me of dropping a cigarette, I offered to pick up whatever he meant.

    They are paid to intimidate and collect money. These enforcement officers are paid £18,000 a year.. more than my last job in IT support with 6 months training and one of the most stressful office positions I have ever worked in.

    And they don’t even go around picking up litter as part of their job.

    If this team went around dining people AND picking litter, I’d think it was about the environment. It’s not. It’s about money. And the council claims that there is an education program teaching people not to litter to go along with this bullshit.

    This is exploitation. Real litter bugs drop bags of junk on the floor, throw their trash around and don’t care.

    I have run beach clean up schemes, I pick litter that isn’t mine, I regularly make an effort over and above my own personal responsibility.. then I get this.

    It makes me not want to bother with anything. This isn’t teaching me a lesson. It isn’t teaching anyone anything except to hate the council. Honestly, it makes me want to take all my sorted recycling and pour it over his head.

    Who is this helping. Has litter disappeared from the streets? Even reduced? What about the seagulls tearing bags open and covering entire streets. What about all the rats, smell and disease caused by the bin men that went on strike for 2 weeks and filled the city with bags and bags of rubbish.

    I feel suicidal. Picked on. Intimidated. Unfairly taken advantage of and exploited because of my mental illness.

    Can we organise something and support each other. Those that have suffered this indignity.

    Some comments saying ‘if you litter, you deserve this’.

    No. An arbitrary rule and fine being enforced is one thing. But agreeing with it because you don’t like litter and can’t think of a better way to deal with it doesn’t make sense. You can’t just laugh when injustice is happening to someone other than yourself. Just you wait until something you do and consider trivial becomes something a company uses against you as leverage for money you can’t afford.

    Big brother can’t get away with this exploitation. How these people or debt collectors can sleep at night when lives are being destroyed. It’s all not about the fine. It’s the way it is handled. It’s the fact people can’t afford it or are charged incorrectly. Some people are innocent here and can’t afford it.. or the ridiculous price it goes up to if you can’t pay it (+£1000).

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