South East Wales

Smoker vows to risk jail rather than pay litter fine

A woman claims she is willing to go to prison rather than pay a fine for dropping a cigarette outside her home.

Tracey John, 48, from Pontypridd, was fined £350 by local magistrates plus £100 costs after refusing to pay a £75 on the spot penalty.

Ms John said: "They're making me feel like I'm a big criminal... it's not like I've done a massive robbery."

A Rhondda Cynon Taf council spokesman said litter would not be tolerated but issuing a fine was a "last resort".

'Question of freedom'

She was spotted smoking on the doorstep of her home in Maesycoed by a passing litter enforcement officer.

She claimed that despite picking up the cigarette she was given a fixed penalty notice.

After she refused to pay the fine, the case was sent to Pontypridd magistrates where she was convicted in her absence.

The court imposed a fine of £350 plus £100 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Responding to the verdict, she said she had no intention of paying the fine, insisting she had been harshly treated.

She said: "I'll go to jail if I have to - there is no way I'm paying the fine for dropping a fag end outside my own front door.

"It is a question of freedom - I picked up the cigarette after I dropped it. It was outside my own house in my own street.

Image caption Rhondda Cynon Taf council says cigarette waste is its prime litter problem

"They are not being fair: they think they can just take advantage of me to make an example.

"But I'm not going to back down, I'm not going to be intimidated, I'm going to fight this all the way to the top.

"We smokers are always getting persecuted but if I want to smoke on my doorstep they should just give me a break. It's not hurting anyone else.

"I've been smoking for 35 years and I've never, ever, experienced anything like this.

Zero tolerance

"I can't imagine how many people drop cigarettes every day but now I'm getting this ridiculous fine.

"It's just a fag but they're making me feel like I'm a big criminal the way they're going after me. It's not like I've done a massive robbery or something."

Rhondda Cynon Taf council said Ms John had refused to pick up the cigarette butt until after she been issued with a fixed penalty notice.

In a statement, it said Ms John had dropped the cigarette butt in the street while speaking to an enforcement officer who was in the area on an unrelated fly-tipping related incident.

It said the costs of the case had escalated for her because she did not appeal against the notice, then failed to pay the £75 fixed penalty, and then did not appear at the magistrates court.

It added: "The message is that clear littering of any kind will not be tolerated in our county borough and those who commit these crimes will face the consequences, although issuing a fine is always a last resort."

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