Litter wardens have sparked fury in a Royal borough for using ‘Stasi-like’ tactics to rack up fines by targeting innocent residents.
Patrollers in Windsor slapped an 82-year-old with a £100 fine after a piece of tissue fell from her handbag as she rummaged for her keys.
The privately hired snoopers – who have been dubbed ‘litter Stasi’ by civil liberties groups – followed Margaret Newton home and issued a fixed penalty notice that warned she faced court action and a £2,500 fine if she failed to pay up.
Heavy-handed wardens were also criticised after issuing a £100 penalty to taxi driver Rana Arshad for allegedly dropping a cigarette butt, despite his protest that he smoked a different brand with a different coloured filter tip
The discarded cigarette butt (left). Mr Arshad’s cigarettes after he protested that he smoked a different brand with a different coloured filter tip
Heavy-handed wardens were also criticised after issuing a £100 penalty to a taxi driver for allegedly dropping a cigarette butt, despite his protest that he smoked a different brand with a different coloured filter tip.
Locals accuse the wardens from District Enforcement, which began patrols in October and have already dished out 989 fines, of being rude and following residents to snoop on them.
Mrs Newton was walking home with her grandson when she was stopped and fined last month.
Mrs Newton, 82, (pictured) was walking home with her grandson when she was stopped and fined last month
She said: ‘They didn’t come to me right away, I was nearly home before they caught up with me and gave me the fine.
‘They said I had dropped a piece of tissue from my handbag when I got my keys out. It was awful – I’ve never dropped litter in my life.’
After her son complained, the local council rescinded the fine, but other Windsor residents claimed that they too have been unfairly targeted. One man claimed he was followed home by a litter agent last month who stopped him at his front door, demanding: ‘Where did you drop the fag butt?’
The man, who asked not to be named, said: ‘I turned around and showed him the cigarette that was still lit in my hand. It was absolutely outrageous.’
Taxi driver Rana Arshad, 39, said he was given a £100 fine for allegedly dropping a cigarette, despite protesting that the discarded butt had a white filter while his brand was orange-tipped. ‘The officer was rude and didn’t listen to me,’ he said. ‘He threw the ticket on the ground and said I had to pay or I’d go to court and have to pay £2,500.’
Private security firms have been hired by more than 70 local councils in recent years to issue fines for littering and dog fouling, enforcing the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. But agents – who are often paid bonuses or a commission – have been accused of using bullying tactics.
The rapid rise in the use of private firms has seen fines quadruple in ten years to more than 250,000 a year, making millions for councils around the country and the companies employing wardens.
District Enforcement is not being paid by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to patrol the town, and takes all of the revenue raised there by the fines.
The firm, which is run by former police officer Danylo Kurpil, patrols car parks and high streets on behalf of councils across the country and also supplies Covid-19 marshals to patrol towns and cities.
A spokesman for the company said aggressive behaviour was not tolerated, adding: ‘District Enforcement officers wear body cameras and record all interactions. All complaints are fully investigated and Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead management have full access to footage.’
The spokesman said that its officers are not on any form of commission or incentivisation and are paid an hourly rate. A Windsor council spokesman said it was not receiving any money from the fines, adding: ‘The council takes seriously any complaint we receive, and each one is thoroughly investigated.’
The civil liberties group Manifesto Club said the number of fines had increased four-fold since the group last obtained figures in 2011-12 when 63,883 litter fines were issued. Its director Josie Appleton said: ‘It needs to be made against the law to punish people for profit. Punishment should be in the public interest, never for profit.’
Whoops… MoS spots warden dropping litter!
By Michael Powell
One of the litter agents causing controversy in Windsor was last week spotted throwing a cigarette butt on the floor while taking a break from handing out £100 fines to people for doing the same thing.
The enforcement officer was spotted by The Mail on Sunday in the car park of Windsor Leisure Centre on Thursday morning. After removing his jacket – bearing the logos of both his firm and Windsor council – he began puffing away.
The enforcement officer was spotted by The Mail on Sunday in the car park of Windsor Leisure Centre on Thursday morning
Despite being just yards from a litter bin, he chose to throw the butt on the ground when he finished.
Asked if the officer would face a fine, a Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead spokesman said: ‘If a case is proven, then yes. The council will be speaking to District Enforcement and asking them to carry out a full investigation into this matter.’
Warren Hodgson, environmental division director at District Enforcement, said: ‘All complaints are fully investigated.’
Despite being just yards from a litter bin, he chose to throw the butt on the ground when he finished (pictured)