Talking Telford: Early Christmas decorations, and crime that makes everybody pay
I spent a day at Telford Magistrates Court earlier this week, as I often do - for business rather than pleasure - and came face-to-face with two fly-tippers.
Dumping rubbish in the public realm, as selfish and irritating as it is to see, is far from the most harmful or egregious offence - but it never fails to get people wound up. Anyone can file reports on fly-tips on the MyTelford app and have them looked into by council officers, usually dealt with by fixed penalty notice and a financial slap on the wrist amid much grumbling.
But sometimes the process instead ends up in a courtroom, with fly-tippers, having ignored the warnings and inducements to pay up, standing across from highly-trained council prosecutors and trying to explain their actions to the magistrates - often failing, in my experience.
One of the more sympathetic cases from this week was of a man in St Georges who put out rubbish in a large cardboard box after one of his bins was stolen, expecting the bin lorry to empty the box in lieu of a bin. After the bin crew came and went, leaving the box where it was, an eagle-eyed council enforcement officer on patrol spotted the rubbish and was able to work out from letters inside who it likely belonged to.
That meant a fixed penalty notice of £400 for the unfortunate resident, or £200 if he paid up quickly. Being out of work and reliant on benefits, he didn’t pay. That meant more notices and eventually a summons to court this week, where he admitted the offence and sheepishly explained his predicament to the magistrates.
Telford & Wrekin Council’s prosecutor put across the council’s side of things too, and how the authority had spent almost £900 painstakingly putting together a case and preparing the evidence to secure a prosecution.
The magistrates weighed up the costs of the prosecution with the means of the fly-tipper, and ordered that he should receive a conditional discharge and pay £400 towards the costs - less than half of what it had actually cost to bring the case to court.
You often hear about ‘victimless crimes’ - this was a crime where nobody won, least of all the taxpaying public.
At least this time of year, with Bonfire Night and Halloween out of the way, the public have Christmas to look forward to - and on my way to the town centre for a lunch break from court I stopped to admire the traditional giant decorations.
What are the odds the giant lights decorating one corner of the town centre like a neat bow get reported on MyTelford?