Littering in a public place is unsightly, dangerous to animals, and an offence. The maximum fine for leaving litter is £2,500 but in many cases offenders will be given the option of paying a fixed penalty £75.
In cases of littering, the normal course of action will be to offer a notice of opportunity to pay a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), providing the offender is cooperative.
The offence, as amended in 2005, applies to all places that are open to the air, including private open land, and land covered by water. Litter includes paper, cans, bottles, food and drink containers, chewing gum, plastic, left over food, cigarette and cigar ends, flyers etc.
If a person chooses to return to the litter and pick it up following the intervention of an officer, it will not be sufficient for an FPN not to be issued. Such action would be recorded by the officer and noted in the event of a subsequent prosecution.
Where litter is deposited from a vehicle and the offender is not dealt with at the time (i.e. because the vehicle is moving), the identity of the registered keeper will be obtained from the DVLA. An interview letter will be sent to the keeper. A FPN will then be issued by mail where the offender can be reasonably identified, e.g. by CCTV image, visual recognition, admission or statement by the keeper.
Aggravated littering such as smashing glass bottles may be more appropriately dealt with by summons. Such actions may also be an offence of disorderly behaviour more appropriately dealt with by the police.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I pay, if there are no signs in the area where it's dropped?
We are not required to place signs in every street, road, highway or open park/space to tell people not to litter. Litter legislation has been in force for a number of years.
Why should I pay a FPN when there are no litter bins nearby?
As with signage, it's not feasible for the City Council to place litter bins in every street, road or highway, although every effort is made to put bins where they are most needed and where there is most footfall - such as in town centres and major shopping areas. If litter bins aren't available, its up everyone to act responsibly and take their litter home with them or carry it until a litter bin is available.
"Cigarette stubs aren't waste as they can't be placed in litter bins because they will catch fire".
Smokers are responsible for ensuring that they completely extinguish their cigarettes before placing them in the bin. Cigarette waste is the same as any other waste in terms of litter laws, and you can be issued with a FPN for not disposing of just one cigarette stub properly. Care should be taken to avoid any risk of fire and in particular, cigarette ends should be completely extinguished on the stubbing plates provided on many litter bins or on top of the litter bin surface before the stub is thrown in the bin. There is also no reason why smokers can't carry portable pocket ashtrays with them.
If I am caught, can I just pick my litter up at the time and escape the FPN?
The littering offence relates to the leaving of litter. So whether or not you volunteer to pick up your litter after being approached by an officer, the officer will have evidence to show that you have already left the litter and you will be issued with a FPN.
Can't I just put my cigarette stub in a drain?
Cigarette stubs don't disappear in a drain; you are still littering. These can block drains and be harmful to waterways and wildlife. Cigarette butt litter can also pose a hazard to animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food.
Can I appeal against the notice?
There are no formal grounds for appeal against a FPN. This is because it is an invitation for you to effectively "buy off" your liability to prosecution. This means that if you agree that an offence has been committed by you and paying the fine in full, no further action will be taken. The method of dealing with offences, not only saves the time for everyone, (including the offender) in prosecuting cases at Court, but the cost associated with a FPN is likely to be substantially lower than any fine imposed by the Courts. For example the maximum penalty which can be imposed by the Courts for littering is £2,500 along with a criminal conviction against the person. If you don't agree that you have committed the penalty for which you have received the FPN, then the matter will be dealt with through formal prosecution via the Courts.
Pay a Fixed Penalty Notice
To see press articles which highlight the ongoing work of the Environmental Protection service go to the Chronicle of the 4 October 2015, the Chronicle of the 9 May 2016, the Chronicle of the 19 January 2017 and the Chronicle of the 28 August 2017.
Please note: This information has no legal force and is not an authoritative interpretation of the law, which is a matter for the Courts. It is intended to help everyone to understand in general terms, the main features of the legislation. The information is not a substitute for the legislation and you should refer to the text of the legislation for a full statement of legal requirements and obligations. Where appropriate, you should seek your own independent legal advice.
For further information contact: Environmental Protection service, Public Safety, Regulation and Development, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH.
Phone: 0191 2787878