Potters Bar man appears on BBC's Panorama after court battle over dropped orange peel
PUBLISHED: 09:49 16 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:04 16 May 2017
A Potters Bar man appeared on BBC show Panorama last night following his nine-month legal battle over accidentally dropping an orange peel.
Luke Gutteridge, 30, was handed a £75 fine by an officer working for an enforcement company, on behalf of Broxbourne Council, after he accidentally dropped the fruit skin in Hoddesdon in 2014.
Despite the former Sherrardswood School pupil picking it up, he was dragged into a legal wrangle – from which he eventually emerged victorious.
The story was one of several highlighted on the BBC show, which claimed on some occasions the enforcement company’s officers incorrectly fined people for littering before gaining bonuses for it.
Luke said: “I’m happy with how it came across. It was quite interesting to hear other people’s stories and how much money that company had been making in bonuses.
“It was an accident, and the main point is feeling like a criminal, going to court twice for doing something that I didn’t actually do. It was a lot of stress over nothing.”
Councils nationwide are thought to be using similar private companies to enforce the Environmental Protection Act.
Luke’s mother, Rita, told the Potters Bar Edition that they appeared on Panorama to highlight the law, and also wanted to raise awareness about people being incorrectly fined.
“It was about helping others see what this company was doing and to make people aware that they have got rights,” she said.
“They should not be bullied into paying fines when legally the enforcement company or council get the law totally wrong.
“It’s public awareness also, as a lot of people do not realise littering is a criminal offence.”
She added that many residents are unaware that accidentally dropping litter is not a crime, provided it is then picked up when they are made aware.
A Broxbourne Council spokesman said: “In this case specifically, the facts put forward by the defendant and those recorded by the enforcement officer differed and therefore it was decided by the court.
“The council was not ordered to pay the costs of the defence because it was not at fault, and only officer time was spent by the council.”
“When The Local Government Ombudsman reviewed a complaint against the council in this case, it found that ‘the council acted without fault in the way it issued a fixed penalty notice’.”
A council spokeswoman confirmed the local authority no longer uses the enforcement agency involved in the case.