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fixed penalties

1 Comment 23rd August 2010

I work in local authority regulation and the use of fixed penalty notices for low-level straightforward offences is a very useful tool both for the local authority, the alleged offender and the courts. However in 2006 the Clean Neighbourhoods & Environment Act 2005 gave the power to local authorities to vary the level of fixed penalties for litter, noise, dog fouling (if Dog Control Orders adopted), graffiti and fly-posting. This I feel is wrong and goes against the idea of a fixed penalty being 'fixed'. It has also been unfair. Many local authorities have increased their litter, for example, fixed penalty from £50 to £80 at the top of the permitted scale, or the default of £75. How can they justify the fixed penalty for dropping litter being more than the police-issued fixed penalty (PND) for throwing stones at trains or the same as the police PNDs for theft, criminal damage or public order? We chose to keep the litter FPN at £50 to be proportionate and the same as police PND. We increased graffiti/criminal damage to £80 so it was relative to litter and same as police PND for same offence. We often do joint patrols with police officers. CSOs work for police and issue local authority litter FPNs. How can it be right for the local authority officer or CSO to issue a £80 FPN payable in 14 days for litter whereas the police officer dealing with an offender, maybe at the same time, would issue a £50 PND payable in 28 days? When the CNEA was passed I was in communication with the Home Office and a civil servaant tasked with rationalising fixed penalties. The HO was unaware DEFRA were introducing laws to create non-fixed fixed penalties, why? Fixed penalties are a good idea. They need to be rationalised and levels fixed. And who can issue them set nationally. As I believe in Scotland. 

Why does this matter?

Fixed penalties provide a useful tool for dealing with low-level offences out of court and letting peeople avoid criminal convictions for relatively minor offences where a deterrent is required. Their use has been inconsistent across local authorities and police forces. Laws have made fixed penalties not fixed and this is wrong. The non-fixed amounts no longer relate to severity of the offence. Return to fixed penalties would be fairer and logical.

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One Response to fixed penalties

  1. Ted Charlton says:

    We do have an Injustice System … my Motorhome is used by my Family … the vehicle exceeded the speed limit travelling 35 mph going down a hill (mobile automatic camera device) The driver was unable to be identified and I filled in the paperwork saying so. I was advised by the Police I could not take the fixed Penalty Charge. I had to go to Magistrates Court as I was the Registered Keeper. I was offered the opportunity to plead Guilty by letter to save time and expenses. I later received the result of a Fine of £40.00 with £85.00 costs and 4 penalty points and a Victim Surcharge of £30.00 (total £155.00). I should have lied and paid the Fixed Penalty, saving myself money. No costs and no Victim Surcharge which supposedly does not apply to Fixed Penalties.

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