By Anonymous, submitted on Thu, 31/05/2007 - 17:13
A new anti-litter strategy has been unveiled by Glasgow City Council. Amidst great fanfare and wall-to-wall publicity, this week the bright sparks at Glasgow City Council have been trumpeting their 'Clean Glasgow' campaign and the employment of a new army of litter enforcement officers as part of this strategy. With talk of on-the-spot fines of £50 for dropping litter, the question has to be asked though: is this kind of practice legal? The short answer is no. The 'Great Charter' signed by King John at Runnymede in 1215 - still UK law and fully in force - states, and I quote: "For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood...None of these fines shall be imposed except by the assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighbourhood." Notwithstanding the fact that a £50 charge for littering is clearly disproportionate in relation to the degree of the alleged offence, it is simply not legally possible to impose any fines whatsoever without 'the judgement of your peers', i.e. trial by jury. That people actually pay such so-called fines willingly - ranging from parking to speeding and now littering - which are in essence simply an additional local government tax raising power, masquerading as a penalty charge, is one of the great little tragedies in this country. Citizens of Glasgow would be well advised to send these hucksters demanding money with menaces away with a flea in their ear. Your city council was elected under a mandate to represent and serve the electorate, not become - without any permission or public consultation whatsoever - a practitioner of crime and an agent of illegal punishment against the populace. The Council is also rubbing its hands with glee at the prospect of making £16 million worth of savings in their litter collection budget. Unless they are planning mass redundancies within their Cleansing Departments (wont that be popular!) how exactly are they to effect these savings? Glasgow City Council has a number of problems it needs to tackle, particularly the failing, short-sighted, big-business friendly, regeneration games it plays, whose extensive grassroots shortcomings in actually making a real difference in the lives of the majority of ordinary Glaswegians, particularly the poor, were recently highlighted by the think tank Demos. Cleaning up Glasgow is one thing. But the high-handed imposition of highly excessive, ridiculously inflated penalty charges against a struggling and impoverished populace should indeed be very low down in Glasgow City Council's list of priorities at the moment. Employing a heavy handed band of 'litter cops' to deal with a minor problem - and cleaning up millions in savings and mass redundancies at the Cleansing department in the process - is clearly not the way ahead.