Local councils are threatening to prosecute and are even prosecuting law abiding people (who are not harming anyone else and in some cases actually trying to improve society) for some of the most bizarre reasons.

If you do not believe me consider the following absolutely true and completely daft cases that have appeared in the national and local press

(i) Wiltshire Council threatened a man with prosecution if he cleaned the grass verge outside his property .

(ii) Copeland Borough Council fined a man because his wheelie bin lid was overfilled by four inches.

(iii) Swansea Council prosecuted a man for accidentally putting the rubbish in the wrong cycling bin and now he has a criminal record. The irony here was this man was a keen recycler who was trying hard to recycle.

(iv) Havering Council prosecutes a law abiding shop owner for a scap of paper 120 yards from his shop. That could happen to anyone, for all we know the paper could have been dropped when the bin men last collected the bins or it could have just blown out of the bin.

(v) Ipswich Council fined a 14 year old £50 for feeding a seagull half a chip.

(vi) Hinckley and Bosworth Council prosecuted a man for putting two pieces of junk mail into a street bin with his address on it. Is it really a criminal offence to put rubbish in a street bin?

I could go on and on…

My proposals are that the government should, at the very least, be minded to:

(1)  reword or even, in some cases repeal, any central government laws which allows such crazy prosecutions (or crazy threats to prosecute). I realise that for local bye-laws it might be difficult for central government to do anything.

(2)  not use the criminal law over such trivial matters. Something as serious as a criminal prosecution is not appropriate for some trivial offence like putting rubbish in the wrong place. In none of these cases has anyone deliberately littered or deliberately refused to recycle. Maybe this could be achieved by primary legislation in parliament.

(3) tell councils very firmly that they must use their powers far more sparingly and far more responsibly.

Why is this idea important?

The cases above

(i) are totally ludicrous

(ii) completely unjust

(iii) bring both the law and local government into disrepute.

The prime minister wants a big society where individuals take responsibility for their communities. The man, who out the goodness of his heart and the great benefit to community,  mowed public land outside his house, instead of being thanked, is rewarded with a threat of prosecution by Wiltshire Council. Why should we bother trying to do good when all we get is this?

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