A bizarre case in the UK involving an accidentally dropped orange peel and an overzealous enforcement officer has resulted in a nine-month legal battle costing the tax payer an estimated 8,000 pounds.
Luke Gutteridge, 29, accidentally dropped a tiny piece of orange peel as he threw it in the bin and swiftly picked it up again.
Gutteridge, from Hertfordshire, was spotted dropping the peel by an overzealous enforcement officer who wasted no time in admonishing him. He immediately apologised and picked up the stray piece of peel, putting it in the bin.
But it was too late. He was accused of littering and handed a 75 pounds fine last September.
Gutteridge’s protestations were in vain as the council worker refused to cancel the fine, warning that if he did not pay up he would be taken to court.
Furious at the perceived injustice, the former salesman, vowed to clear his name. He fought the case and has won.
Magistrates in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, accepted his defence that littering was an offence only if there was proof that it was intentional, the Telegraph reported.
Having lost the case, Broxbourne Borough Council must pay its own legal fees of an estimated 4,000 pounds.
Gutteridge has requested that his own 4,000 pounds fees are also paid by central funds, which is public money.
Talking about the incident, Gutteridge said, “I couldn’t believe it. It was a waste of taxpayers’ money from the start. I hate littering and was prepared to clear my good name at any cost. I feel justice has now been done.”
“The council should pay the costs from its own pockets instead of expecting taxpayers to pay for its mess,” he said.
Michael Ramsden, a human rights lawyer who took up the case, said: “It is quite simple, the council clearly got the law wrong.”
A council spokeswoman was quoted as saying, “The Council reviews all cases at all stages up to court but in this case the facts put forward by the defendant and those recorded by the Enforcement Officer differed and therefore it was decided by the court.
“Broxbourne Council takes all offences of littering seriously and works hard to keep the Borough clean and pleasant for its residents and visitors,” she said.