Mum fined £150 for dropping cigarette slams ‘cash cow’ council over no ashtrays
A fuming mum has slammed a "money-grabbing" council after she was slapped with a £150 fine for throwing her cigarette butt on the floor despite there being no ashtrays in sight.
Charlotte Bolt was hit in the wallet by Merton Council after she dropped her cigarette end on the floor outside Mitcham Eastfields Train Station in southwest London.
She is now calling for ashtrays to be installed outside all railway stations in the borough.
The 45-year-old said she doesn't usually smoke in the day, but had become stressed after being stuck on a bus for 45 minutes due to the petrol shortage on September 27.
"I stupidly thought it wouldn’t affect me as I don’t drive but instead it stressed me out so much I had a cigarette, which is quite unusual for me because I only smoke with a glass of wine at the end of the day," she said.
She said she was fined by a council enforcement officer as she was walking into the station in the early part of the afternoon.
Charlotte added that she was running late to pick up her 11-year-old daughter Tayla, who was staying at her nan's house the night before due to it being the anniversary of her father's death.
Speaking about the fine, she said: "I remember looking up while smoking and thinking they have a lot of cameras at the station.
"I can only assume that they informed the officer that was closest to the station because I never saw him until he ran up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder."
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She went on: "I told him that I am a thoughtful person who never litters and if there had been an ashtray I would have used it.
"I think the council have an obligation to provide ashtrays outside stations if they are able to fine people as the other councils that do it all provide them."
Charlotte has issued a warning to other commuters to ensure that they "don't get caught out" while waiting for a train.
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"It must be a cash cow for Merton Council," she added.
"I know that I will never do it again. I will just put it in my pocket."
Charlotte said she is unable to pay the fine and that the price will soar from £100 to £150 this week.
"I'm really struggling financially at the moment as I have just moved and had Tayla's birthday costs and I'm still paying off her phone," she said.
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She went on to say that she has been given no formal right to appeal and believes that the older generation could be targeted by council enforcement officers.
"I do also believe they are praying on older people because it’s a new thing that not a lot of the older generation know about," she added.
"It's a liberty and a money-making scheme by the council."
In response, Merton Council said there are two litter bins with ashtrays located in the near vicinity of the station but, Charlotte claims the nearest ashtray is located at a bus stop – 200 yards from the station.
A spokesperson for Merton Council said: "We are hopeful that through on-going provision of suitable bins, supported continued education and enforcement, the numbers of Fix Penalty Notices (FPNs) issued will reduce. Our intention is to prevent litter in the first place and satisfy the demands of our residents.
"In direct reference to the right of appeal I can confirm that If at any time during this process alleged offenders are entitled to make representation. On receipt of any representation the case in placed on hold until the representation is considered.
"It is important to note that a FPN is an invitation for you to effectively discharge your liability to prosecution.
"This means that while this is not an admission of guilt, you agree that an offence has been committed and that by paying the sum of money specified no further action will be undertaken by the council.
"This method of dealing with offences not only saves the time involved in prosecuting cases at court, but the cost associated with a Fixed Penalty Notice is likely to be substantially lower than any fine that can be imposed by the courts."
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