Smokers in Hastings have been hit by fines totalling more than £12,000 for dropping cigarette butts on the ground.
They were caught out in a Hastings Borough Council crack-down on littering which involved using a specialist enforcement contractor.
Offenders who did not pay penalty notices were hit with a £120 fine and £216 costs - a total of £336.
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In just one court sitting recently 38 people were hit with fines and costs which added up to £12,768. In all the cases the verdict was proved in their absence.
Offences dates back to February and March this year. The majority of offenders were caught outside Hastings and Warrior Square train stations, suggesting these were specifically targeted.
Concerns have been raised by Citizen’s Advice that many of the people facing the £336 court bill are already in financial hardship.
A Hastings Borough Council spokesperson said: Smoking related litter is a serious issue in Hastings and is one of the commonest types of litter that needs to be cleaned up in areas such as the town centres and seafront.
“Over the years the council has run several awareness raising campaigns about this and handed out a lot of free ‘butt boxes’ to help smokers dispose of their litter responsibly.
“In late 2016 early 2017 the Council ran a social media campaign about littering, and received a lot of positive feedback urging the Council to take more enforcement action against litterers and irresponsible dog owners in relation to fouling.
“The Council operated a pilot with a specialist enforcement contractor to assess the impact that approach could have on littering in the borough, and to learn more about how that enforcement delivery model could operate in Hastings in the longer term. The pilot lasted for 12 months and ended early in July this year. The majority of Fixed Penalty Notices issued by the contractor were for smoking related littering, and the Council’s legal services team have been prosecuting offenders who failed to pay.
“The Council’s warden service is our main street scene enforcement service and has resumed littering enforcement now that the pilot is over, and the Council is considering the options for this type of enforcement in the future.”
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