South East Wales

Mistaken identity in Wigan £650 litter fine for Magor woman

Emma Caresimo Image copyright Emma Caresimo

A Monmouthshire woman was forced to pay a £650 fine for dropping a cigarette butt in Wigan - despite not smoking and never visiting the town.

Emma Caresimo, 40, from Magor, was "horrified" after a bailiff arrived at her home and threatened to tow her car.

She said the "upsetting" ordeal was for an offence committed by someone with her maiden name from Liverpool.

Wigan council said the court instructed the bailiff while HM Courts & Tribunals Service blamed "human error".

Mrs Caresimo said she was at home with her three-year-old son when the bailiff clamped her Volkswagen Golf, which he told her was worth £3,700.

"I said 'I have never been to Wigan and I don't smoke' but he wasn't having any of it. He didn't believe me and said he'd heard it all before," she explained.

"He said he would take the clamp off only if I paid the outstanding fines of £650. I had no other choice; it was awful."

Image copyright Emma Caresimo
Image caption A note handed to Mrs Caresimo from the bailiff

Mrs Caresimo called the police who, on arrival, said the bailiff was working within the law.

"They should not be able to get the wrong person like this, it's very distressing," she said.

Paul Barton, assistant director of operational services at Wigan council, said: "Following an unpaid fixed penalty notice last year we issued court proceedings to an Emma Smith with a Liverpool address.

"We prosecuted under this Liverpool address and have never issued any proceedings to a Welsh address or instructed any court or bailiff to visit a Welsh property."

An HM Courts & Tribunals Service spokeswoman said: "As a result of human error HMCTS wrongly took enforcement action against an individual with the same name and date of birth as an offender.

"We are deeply sorry for any distress caused by this regrettable incident and have arranged for the money to be refunded. We have taken steps to avoid this happening in future."