Worse Than Dog Poo: The Real Stink Should Be Over On-The-Spot Fines
DO we sympathise with Peter Taylor, styled as “Community-spirited” by the Stoke Sentinel? Or we do we think he made a problem worse?
The local council is very much of the opinion that Mr Taylor is a nuisance. It handed him an £80 fine for picking up a pump of dog poo left on a pathway in Central Forest Park, Hanley, Staffordshire, and relocating it into long grass.
After complaining at the absurdly high charge, Stoke-on-Trent City Council relented. The charge was cancelled. But Mr Peter was told off for not putting the turd in a bin. And that upsets him. As he says: “I clear the paths nearly every day. I go out and see where the mess is then I go out with a shovel and throw it in the long grass, but apparently I’m not supposed to do that. They told me to leave it where it is and they will come out and remove it.”
Carrying out a Clochemerle-type engagement with becoming dignity (he refused to complete the performance) is Digby, a three year old Pyrenean mountain rescue dog owned by Mrs J. Hull of Cheam, Surrey. He is seen officially opening a dog’s toilet at Roper’s Gardens, one of two set up on Chelsea Embankment by Kensington and Chelsea Council. Holding Digby’s lead is broadcaster Robert Robinson, who was described as guest of honour. Uninvited guest at the ceremony were demonstrators demanding free school milk for children instead of loos for dogs. Date: 15/03/1972
Dog poo is disgusting. Along with listening to other people’s loud phone calls on crowed trains, dog poo not cleared by the animal’s owner is something that annoys most of us. Mr Tay;or adds: “They said, ‘once you have touched something it is your responsibility, which sounds ridiculous to me. I couldn’t believe it. They weren’t going to cancel it straight away. I had to argue about it over three or four phone calls. They were trying to penalise someone who picks up litter all the time. The dog mess up that end of the park is terrible. I told them I won’t bother doing it anymore. You can’t blame me for that. I’ve lived here for 25 years but the mess has only started to get bad when they did the paths up about six years ago.”
Did the dogs refuse to go on the old, less well-maintained paths? Are dogs choosy?
Peter’s wife Sonia Taylor adds: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting. He was moving other people’s dog’s mess so no-one would step in it.”
To which Nick Bentley, the city council’s environment manager, replies: “We recognise that Mr Taylor was trying to clear the footpath, but by putting the dog waste into the undergrowth he was just transferring the problem to another area where children could play…”
Indeed. A poo you can’t see offers more of a threat to a misplaced foot or hand than one in plain view. (Anorak notices that people around our area have taken to displaying their pet’s poos by wrapping them small carrier bags and hanging them from trees. Not nice. But the chances are that the poo will erode before the bag. Chances of interesting rain are slim.)
Adds Mr Bentley: “What was unacceptable was the verbal abuse which Mr Taylor unleashed on our enforcement officer, who was only trying do her job keeping the streets clean and safe for the community.”
Does a foul mouth present more of an issue than fouled path or lawn? Did the council worker pick up the poo in the grass?
What is unacceptable is that council workers can slap out exorbitant on-the-spot fines. Plastic coppers are charging people for things that not so long ago would have been minor incidents. You can be fined on the word of a single official, with no need for checks or balances.
Dominic Raab MP noted: “The growth in use of spot fines to deal with violent crimes, drug offences and shoplifting amounts to the imposition of a tax rather than a proper punishment. Criminal justice is not about raising revenue. It is about making sure those guilty of substantial crimes are properly punished and deterred – while those who are innocent are not swatted like flies by those granted state power to impose criminal penalties without safeguards to prevent abuse.”
Remember theses fines:
- Tracey John, Rhondda Cynon Taf – fined for dropping a cigarette butt on her own property, which she then picked up. Mores
- Cherie Morgan, Blaenau Gwent – Dog owner fined for walking dog in park, where they had been walking for 30 years. More.
- Stephen Bennett, Sutton – Dog owner wrongfully fined for dog fouling. More
The system is simple: pay up and the issue will vanish. Pay faster and it’s better for you. Failure to pay up swiftly and without complaint or a day in court will result in you being threatened with a criminal record that could badly affect your life.
Josie Appleton has compiled some figures:
Fixed penalty notices were intended to free up courts to focus on the bigger crimes. But they have become a mean to rise money; the fine is the incentive.