Following up on Melanie’s recent post on another forum, which resonated with many and will hopefully result in a local man, caught on video allowing his dog to foul on Mallinson Road, being issued with a fine, I wanted to appraise you all of a chat I had with Wandsworth Council yesterday.
I found out that if evidence is provided, or the fouling is witnessed by a council warden then a penalty charge will be issued for £100 but this is reduced to £55 if paid within a fortnight. Should the council decide on a prosecution subsequently, often as a result of the fine not being paid, then the maximum fine is £500 + court costs. He said however, that many times, he’s seen judges be very lenient in their judgement because the offender is on benefits or a low income.
The head of department is not a fan of penalty charges and favours prosecution because he said a lot of people just see paying a small fine occasionally as a cost of owning a dog (and they fancy their chances of largely getting away with it).
Notwithstanding how utterly minging that attitude is, it also demonstrates that, given the slim chance of being caught and the risibly feeble penalties even if you do, it’s hardly surprising that we have the epidemic of dog poo that we do.
What I do find surprising is that this is a national matter, determined by Parliamentary legislation, that gives no power to local authorities to decide where to pitch both the penalty notice and the maximum level of fines from courts – it’s a level 4 civil penalty apparently and would require a vote in Parliament to change it. Surely this is missing a trick and individual councils should have the ability to decide these things, so that the parameters are decided with the nature of the problem in each local area in mind?
Couple of other things – Wandsworth used to have 6 wardens focused specifically on the problem of dog mess and now has only 4, also, in cases were a prosecution is brought, the person providing the evidence to the council, needs to be prepared to go to court to be the witness.
I think though, as it’s me in this case providing the video evidence to the council, it can be me that goes to court, rather than the lady whose doorbell cam footage it is, but I’ll get some clarification on this. Perhaps this has been a hindrance to bringing prosecutions in the past. The individual asked to confirm the truth of their evidence might be scared, or find it awkward to do so, in front of the perpetrator who may live very close to them. I really wouldn’t mind in the slightest, regardless of who the perpetrator was, but then I’m a 45 year old man who won’t be easily intimidated and perhaps there are other, more vulnerable, demographic groups that might be, a little, and I don’t blame them at all. I wonder what could be done to counter that? Perhaps we set up a FB group of people prepared to go to court on behalf of others? – any suggestions very welcome…
I’d be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts though on the fine levels. I think they’re pathetic and need making much, much more punchy. I think the penalty notice should be a £1,000 fine and perhaps the maximum court fine £2,500 or £5,000 plus costs, perhaps in the main reserved for repeat offenders.
There are probably lots more things to consider on the issue of trying to change this situation for the better than I’ve thought of, so if anyone works in this area of law or has experience of similar areas of legislation, I’d welcome your input.
It has got me thinking though, if we started a petition asking for greater powers for the council to combat this, and it got 20,000 signatures, and you took it to our MP Marsha de Cordova, she’d have to take it pretty seriously wouldn’t she? I guess in that case, you need to pitch the fine at a level that everyone thinks is about right for the offence, so I’d really welcome feedback on that too.
I love the idea of making the issue a project in schools, as mentioned by someone in Melanie’s thread, where children contribute designs and they’re laminated and displayed on lampposts in the neighbourhood, and it would be a great thing to get some coverage in the local press, but I’m not sure on its own, that’ll make that much of a difference. Perhaps in tandem with stiffer penalties, better enforcement and more community activism about it, we could get our streets a great deal cleaner in time though.
How many people have a doorbell cam btw? They seem to be increasingly popular and I’m wondering if there’s any mileage in setting up a fb group to try and get people to post videos of offending people more frequently, so it would become a resource to catch culprits. I also suspect that, a bit like burglary, this menace is caused by a very small number of people in each locale, whose dogs poo in the streets every day, so if we could catch half of them, it might make a huge difference.
It’s heartening that so many people feel as strongly about this as I do. I’ve lived in Wandsworth for 15 years and think we’re lucky to live in one of the finest parts of London. As far as anti-social behaviour goes, I think dog poo easily the greatest blight on our lovely neighbourhoods. Like everywhere in London we get a bit of fly-tipping, litter, drug paraphernalia etc but I think dog poo’s a much more relentlessly constant and stomach-turning problem by a country mile.
Tell you what, if I get 20 thanks on this post, I’ll do a petition and if you all share the hell out of it, I’d bet we get oodles of signatures. Gotta be worth a try hasn’t it? Who’s with me?
All and any other ideas most welcome. This just makes me so very angry every time I see it and it’s not good for one’s blood pressure or mental health frankly. Perhaps where there’s a will, there’s a way? let’s see…