Authorities in Hastings have warned people dropping cigarette butts in the street, could incur fines as high as a holiday in Barcelona.
The move comes after three people were fined £440 each after being found guilty of littering when they threw butts on the street in Brighton.
Littering is illegal under the Environmental Protection Act, making it a criminal offence to dispose of litter in a public place. The offenders, two men and a woman, were fined after failing to pay the original £75 that was issued to them at the time of the offence. A total of £450 in legal costs as well as £44 victim surcharge was also added.
The average penalty for littering in Hastings is a £95 fine, however failing to pay this could lead to a much bigger punishment. Spokesman for Hastings Borough Council, Kevin Boorman has said Hastings also have strict punishments in place for those who choose to litter the streets. “We tend to use fixed fines, but if people won’t pay the fixed fine then we will prosecute them and if they go to a magistrates court they will be fined a similar amount to that which was fined in Brighton. So it is quite possible that if someone leaves a cigarette butt on the streets and doesn’t pay the fixed penalty fine, they could end up paying several hundred pounds”.
Hastings has dozens of litter bins that have specific sections for cigarette butts. However, that has not stopped members of the public from using the street floor as a bin. Mr. Boorman added “I think they’re lazy, if I’m really honest. I can’t think of any other explanation, there are plenty of litter bins around”.
Despite littering being a punishable offence, some locals say that the level of fines that could be given out are too harsh. One local man said “I think it’s a bit steep to be honest, there’s more important issues”. A local woman, who is also an ex-smoker, also disagreed on the price people may pay if caught littering “It’s ridiculous. I don’t smoke anymore, but I had pocket ashtrays where I would put my cigarette butts and I always forgot to empty them”. But, another local admitted that while he thought £440 was too high a fine, he still believed those that throw cigarette butts on the floor should be punished, saying “that’s too high, £100 pounds is fine, but not that much”.
The fine the three offenders received at Brighton Magistrates higher than the price four minimum fines for speeding. The trio were given an opportunity to plead guilty by post, which would have resulted in a less severe penalty.