Hemel Hempstead man criticises 'overzealous' fining by enviro-officers

Last year, the council introduced Enviro-crime officers who have the delegated powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices

By Holly Patel
Monday, 7th February 2022, 3:36 pm

A man from Hemel Hempstead has criticised the 'overzealous' enviro-officers introduced by Dacorum Borough Council after he was approached by them in the town centre and issued a Fixed Penalty Notice.

Lee Phillips has criticised the officers' approach and says they are not being fair and accusing people when they have not witnessed them commit an offence

He says they treated him like a 'criminal' and claims they were incorrect with their accusations. Lee is contesting his fine and says the case has been put on hold.

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Lee was approached by the enviro-officers in the town centre and issued a Fixed Penalty Notice (C) Google Maps

Dacorum Borough Council says the officers and Fixed Penalty Notices are in line with the council's commitment to making the borough a cleaner and safer place to live, work and visit.

In November, Dacorum Borough Council introduced Enviro-crime officers who have the delegated powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices.

They have been delegated the powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices of £80 for littering and for breaches of the borough’s town centre, dog control and alcohol PSPOs. Should the FPN not be paid, the offender could face prosecution and a larger fine

The public spaces protection orders section on the Dacorum Borough Council website has a list of the current orders in force in Dacorum.

He said: "I was down the Marlowes on 24 January, at 1.01pm. I was meeting with my family and grandchildren for my daughter's birthday, I was having a cigarette when two officers came over and claimed that I had thrown my cigarette butt on the floor and that they were going to fine me £80.

"This was grossly incorrect and I would never litter, especially in front of my family.

"These officers in front of everyone in town treated me like a criminal and were so not discrete that it was mortifying, especially when I hadn't done anything wrong.

"They would not even listen to reason and were relentless in their accusations.

"I am not a wealthy man and as such I am not stupid enough to risk £80 on lazy littering."

Lee has also been told of other incidents where he says the officers have been incorrect, or too quick to confront members of the public.

He added: "My son had a similar experience on 14 January at 1.45pm, he was approached outside Primark and accused of the same thing.

"Only this time he was smoking a vape and not a cigarette. They too would not listen to reason and tried to enforce the fine.

"He went into Primark and asked to show the CCTV that proved he was smoking a vape and not a cigarette.

"They reluctantly allowed him to continue with his day but this had taken a toll on my son's health, who suffers from depression and epilepsy.

"The officers are even fining dog walkers and searching their bags to see if they have poo bags.

"Someone was stopped by an officer and when she couldn't find a bag on her, even though the dog hadn't been to the toilet she was fined.

"This is grossly wrong and invades your privacy especially doing that in front of the general public.

"Without the police being present how is it legal to search somebody’s property."

He claimed that other examples he had been told of included an 85-year-old woman who dropped a bit of bread and a 90-year-old woman who had accidentally dropped her face mask, and

Lee added: "This lady told me that she didn't have the money to pay and now I worry that she had to pick between heating and eating.

"My landlady is partially sighted and uses a dog for assistance. She is now too scared to go out in case something drops out of her walker and she can't see it.

"She's too terrified she will become another victim which makes her even more isolated than what she is now."

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A Dacorum Borough Council spokesperson said: "From 1 November 2021, our partners District Enforcement, a company that specialise in enviro-crime enforcement, have been delegated the powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) of £80 should they witness people littering, failing to clean up after their dog or breaching our PSPOs.

"This is in line with our commitment to a firmer approach to making our borough a cleaner and safer place to live, work and visit.

"This has been widely communicated through educational events, the press, social media, our weekly Dacorum Life email, posters and leaflets prior to commencement and is ongoing.

"For the vast majority this enforcement action has been well received.

"District Enforcement provides experienced and professional enviro-crime officers who work under the direction and on behalf of ourselves.

"The officers follow current legislative guidelines and our enforcement policy. District's officers receive intensive training and ongoing professional development to maintain high standards.

"They will also wear body cameras to capture interaction between officers and members of the public.

"We cannot comment on individual cases - any complaints against the officers conduct should be made in writing to [email protected] and will be handled in line with established procedures."