Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedford Council's £50 fine court threat is 'over-reaction'

Bedford Cemetery
Image caption Bedford Borough Council has put up a sign since Lynette Tweedale took a photo (right) on the day of her walk

A council has been accused of "over-reacting" by threatening court action against a dog owner for refusing to pay a £50 fine.

Lynette Tweedale was caught walking in a Bedford cemetery with her dog off the lead, but there were no mandatory signs saying this was not allowed.

Bedford Council said there were "clear signs" but photographs refute this.

The TaxPayers' Alliance called the council's actions a "tremendous over-reaction".

Ms Tweedale was walking with her 11-year-old schnauzer by her side, when a park warden told her to put the animal on the lead.

She did as he asked but was told she would still be fined £50.

Ms Tweedale told BBC Three Counties Radio: "He said 'I'm going to have to give you a fixed penalty fine... you're meant to have a dog on a lead and there's a big sign at the entrance'."

They returned to the entrance where no sign could be seen and where the warden took a photo to prove this.

Ms Tweedale also took a photo of her own, but said the council had told her if she refuses to pay she will be taken to court and have a criminal record.

The council has since put up a Dog Control Order sign at the site.

'Legal requirement'

When the orders were brought in by the borough in 2013, the council said there was a "legal requirement" that, where practicable, signs must be put up informing the public of the order and permanent signs should be erected.

A council spokesman said: "Signs clearly indicate that dog owners should keep their dogs on a lead."

It said it could not comment further in case it prejudiced any future legal proceedings.

Andy Sylvester from the TaxPayers' Alliance said the authority had to work out "if this is the best use of their cash".

"If you break by-laws you have to be held accountable for them... but this seems like a tremendous over-reaction," he said.

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