On the 19th of April 2012 Cllr George Owers (Labour, Coleridge) asked an oral question about dog poo at a full meeting of Cambridge City Council.
Cllr Owers’ question was:
“In light of the council’s catastrophically poor record at taking enforcement action against irresponsible dog owners for dog-fouling, are there plans to co-operate with PCSOs and/or police officers to bolster enforcement efforts against dog-fouling?”
Liberal Democrat Cllr Jean Swanson, “Executive Councillor for Environmental and Waste Services”, which gives her responsibility for public toilets, bins and dog poo, responded. Cllr Swanson read out a prepared response, much of which did not address the question. Cllr Swanson said she welcomed police support and suggested dog fouling could be made a local policing priority at an area committee.
Cllr Owers said this would not usually be an issue which would be appropriate to take forward as a police priority, and repeated his question asking about giving PCs and PCSOs the powers and training to issue Fixed Penalty Notices.
Cllr Swanson said she had not heard of the possibility of giving the police the power to issue these Fixed Penalty Notices and committed to follow it up. She said she could not make any guarantees the police would feel it was the best use of their time but “it can be worth asking them”. “The whole issue of Fixed Penalty Notices and controlling dog fouling as far as is possible is very much on the agenda for all of us”.
I have in the past researched, and lobbied on, the question of Cambridge City Council Fixed penalty notices being issued by the police, my interest in the past has been particularly in relation to fly-tipping. In December 2008 I wrote:
I would like to see the council and police get PCSOs and police officers issuing Cambridge City Council Fixed Penalty Notices.
Currently, as I have detailed below, the police have the powers to issue Cambridge City Council Fixed Penalty notices however as I understand it, at the moment the necessary agreements and arrangements between the council and the police are not in place to enable their use to occur.
I would like to see the council and the police introduce the required protocols, and practices, enabling the tickets to be issued. For example new tick boxes ought be added to pads of tickets already carried by officers and procedures set up covering things like appeals and cancelling notices.
The public perception of the police is damaged when officers are seen ignoring crime, and when people brazenly get away with offences. In Cambridge the most common thing to see the police ignoring is dangerous and illegal cycling, especially cycling without lights. I would like to see the police, where they have time, dealing with such relatively minor crime as the health risks, and impact on the city being a pleasant place to live is real.
I think it would be create an anomaly if PCSOs and not PCs gained the powers and would suggest giving the powers and capabilities to both groups.
Ideally I would like to see the city policed by constables, with full powers; enabling them to tackle whatever they come across. Particularly I’d like to see those patrolling the city able to deal with dangerous and illegal driving, parking and cycling.
The manner of involvement of local councils in policing is often in my view often inappropriate, I don’t think for example the council should be involved in deciding which powers the police get to hold or exercise. I think this creates a confusing inconsistency. The complexity of the position relating to dog fouling is just one of many areas where simplification is required. A police officer shouldn’t have to consider which local council district he is in when deciding how to deal with an offence.
Councils, not the police, have prime responsibility to keep public areas like parks, and streets clean; but I think its reasonable to give the powers to deal with offences which are actually witnessed to officers who might find themselves in the right place at the right time to take action.
I wouldn’t want to see police officers, either PCSOs or PCs tasked with tackling dog mess, but if they are patrolling a park or public space they ought be able to deal with this form of unpleasant criminality just as they would any other issues such as littering or criminal damage.
The Current Position
The Parties shall enter into negotiations with the aim of agreeing further terms with respect to the issuing of fixed penalty notices in relation to offences with respect to graffiti and littering; the further terms would authorise the issue of these notices by the police community support officers on behalf of the Council”
However it appears these negotiations never took place.
I have also via an FOI request obtained a list of the powers of PCSOs in Cambridgeshire, this includes the power to:
All Cambridgeshire PCSOs have been designated with the power to issue certain Local Authority / Litter Authority / Local Education Authority Fixed Penalties:
- Power to issue fixed penalty notices in respect of offences under dog control orders: Power of an authorised officer of a primary or secondary authority, within the meaning of section 59 of the Clean Neighbours and Environment Act 2005, to give a notice under that section.
- Power to issue fixed penalty notices for dog fouling: Power of an authorised officer of a Local Authority to give a notice under Section 4 of the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 (fixed penalty notices in respect of dog fouling).
Interestingly a FOI response from Cambridgeshire Police listing PCSO powers refers to the Dog (Fouling of Land) Act 1964, which I can’t find a copy of, the only reference I can find is in the list of Cambridgeshire’s PCSO’s powers, so it looks as if its a mistake. It would be interesting to know if the wrong reference has been cited in the actual designation to Cambridgeshire’s PCSOs and on their designation cards, in which case it will presumably not be operative.
The law which I suspect was intended to be referred to is the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996, which has now been repealed but in a peculiarly British, and confusing manner “continues to have effect”.
The the entire city of Cambridge, including the commons is a designated place under the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 according to the Midsummer Common legislation compilation (and confirmed on p11 of a Cambridge City Council document from 2006).
Section 59 of the Clean Neighbours and Environment Act 2005 refers to dog control orders, and
FOI response from the council dated August 2010 states:
Cambridge City Council has not made any Control Orders under the above legislation
I can find no more recent mention of dog control orders on the Cambridge City Council website.
The Fixed Penalty Notices which can be issued under each act are both local authority, not police, Fixed Penalty Notices, though they can be issued by PCSOs.
The list of powers of Cambridgeshire’s PCSOs also includes the statement
Application of such powers will generally follow consultation with the relevant issuing authority, for example a district council.
City Council Website
Owners who fail to clear up will be prosecuted and could face a fine of up to £1,000.
Failing to clear up dog fouling is a criminal offence.
The maximum penalty on conviction is a fine not exceeding £1,000. Alternatively, the council may issue a fixed penalty notice of £50.
An FOI response from the council issued on the 5th of April 2012 stated no fixed penalty notices for dog fouling had been issued since 2007.
- The Litter (Animal Droppings) Order 1991 – legislation giving local councils the responsibility to keep public spaces clear of dog faeces, by strengthening provisions in the Environmental Protection Act 1990
- DEFRA Dog control order guidance.
- The Dog Control Orders (Prescribed Offences and Penalties, etc.) Regulations 2006
- The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 (Commencement No. 2, Transitional Provisions and Savings) (Wales) Order 2006 – The commencement order which keeps the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 in effect despite it being repealed.