Nearly 19,000 litter louts caught in Glasgow have been let off paying £1.5million worth of fines, The Ferret can reveal.
Community Safety Glasgow (CSG) is a joint venture between Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Police Authority. It issues more fixed penalty notices for litter than any other body in Scotland.
Over the three years up to March 2018, CSG issued 36,360 fixed penalty notices for litter which amounted to 86 per cent of all litter fines issued in Scotland over the period. But only 46 per cent of these fines were paid.
In Scotland, when a person is caught dropping litter they can be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £80 by authorised council officers. If the £80 fixed penalty notice is not paid, local authorities can refer the unpaid fine to the procurator fiscal, who can then impose a fine of £2,500.
Although Glasgow Council will only confirm that they had “no record” of what had happened to the unpaid fines, The Ferret has established that none of them were referred to the procurator fiscal.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service confirmed that it only received 749 unpaid fine referrals for litter from all Scottish local authorities over the three years. The Ferret has established through a series of freedom of information requests that all these referrals can be accounted for by local authorities in other parts of Scotland.
Glaswegians will be angry that people caught trashing their city are being given a free pass by the council. Patrick Harvie, MSP
CSG initially tried to apply a charge for releasing information about the fixed penalties it had issued for litter. But after an appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, CSG officials admitted that they held “no record” of whether thousands of unpaid litter fines it had issued were ever referred to the procurator fiscal.
A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council confirmed that 3.3 per cent of people with unpaid fines, some 655 people, opted to take part in a local “fine or time” scheme during this period. This programme allows people to volunteer to take part in a local neighbourhood clean-up instead of paying off their fixed penalty notice.
This means that 18,953 Glaswegians who did not pay their litter tickets were let off without payment by the authorities. If all of of those people had paid their £80 fixed penalty notice, they would have paid more than £1.5m in fines.
Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow, said: “Glaswegians will be angry that people caught trashing their city are being given a free pass by the council choosing not to pursue their fines through the courts.
“If that’s because prosecutors are over-stretched, they should demand more resources so that justice can be served, rather than trying to evade public scrutiny.”
The Herald previously reported that five members of staff resigned from Community Safety Glasgow in 2015, amid allegations that “bogus tickets” had been issued to non-existent people in order to meet staff targets.
At the time officials pledged that “regular scrutiny” and a new electronic system would prevent further bogus tickets being issued.
Glasgow is not the only area where people who do not pay their litter fines face no consequences. The Ferret has previously named eight other Scottish councils where no referrals were made to the procurator fiscal.
In neighbouring North Lanarkshire, officers issued 1,980 litter fines over the same three year period but only 888 were subsequently paid. Not a single one of the remaining 1,092 unpaid tickets were referred to the courts. The council did not refer unpaid tickets for dog-fouling and fly-tipping to the courts either.
Elsewhere, Argyll and Bute, East Lothian, Falkirk, Highland, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Dunbartonshire councils all failed to make referrals for unpaid litter tickets to the procurator fiscal.
Conservative MSP, Alexander Stewart, previously told The Ferret that it was “pointless” for councils to issue fixed penalty notices for litter without proper enforcement.
“If people feel these punishments are unenforceable and they can get away with it, this will do absolutely nothing to deter this heinous and careless behaviour,” he said.
The Crown Office said that it had the resources to manage all the referrals it received from local authorities for unpaid litter fixed penalty notices. The total number of cases received from local authorities has gone down in recent years.
“The procurator fiscal deals appropriately with every report received and will take action where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so,” said a spokesperson.
A spokeswoman for Glasgow Council said: “Littering is anti-social and detrimental to the environment we all share.
“We use a range of measures and initiatives to tackle the problem, with an overall focus on prevention and changing behaviour. We believe that this holistic approach offers the best route to creating and sustaining a cleaner environment for residents and visitors.
“Enforcement is one part of that wider approach and we issue fixed penalty notices where we believe they will have the greatest impact. We acknowledge there can be issues with non-payment, however, and we would always look to improve recovery rates.”
Decision by Scottish Information Commissioner
Photo credit: Clare Black | CC | https://flic.kr/p/7zCp5P.