Barry King knew the threat of a penalty notice for dropping litter in Blackpool was a load of rubbish as soon as it dropped through his letterbox.
That’s because the professional gardener has not travelled far enough this year in the car allegedly involved in the offence to get from his home to Blackpool – let alone back again.
Barry, 54, last visited the resort seven years ago for his wife’s birthday so he was stunned to receive a letter through from Blackpool Council warning he faced a fine of up to £150 after one of its officers reported seeing litter thrown from his Nissan Micra on St Walburga’s road.
He was told he faced legal action if he failed to pay within 14 days – yet he insists he was more than 300 miles away at the time of the alleged offence.
“I was really shocked when I got the letter,” said Barry.
“I wondered what on earth was going on and the more I looked at it, the more I realised how ludicrous it was to suggest I had done what is alleged.
“I was the best part of 300 miles away at the time and thankfully I can prove it.”
In fact, he only uses the car for short journeys and has only clocked up 237 miles in it since its last MOT in November – not quite enough to get him to Lancashire from his West Sussex home.
The council is now looking into his case after he supplied a copy of his mileage as recorded at the MOT and as it stands now – seemingly proving there was no way the car could have been in Blackpool, more than 270 miles from Horsham, where he lives with wife Elisa.
The littering offence is said in the letter to have happened in St Walburga’s Road, Layton, at 7.25am on Friday, August 23.
A council officer recorded the registration plate of the car the litter was allegedly dropped from but Barry insists they must have made a mistake.
The 54-year-old said he was preparing for work at the time and his car was at home.
He added that his one and only trip to Blackpool was seven years ago – a 40th birthday treat for his wife Elisa.
Yet the letter, which identifies Barry as the registered keeper of the vehicle and offers him the opportunity to give evidence by email if he was not driving the car at the time, uses police-style language and warns of court action if he fails to comply.
It says the details provided will be used for an authorised officer to issue a fixed penalty notice for littering and that if the alleged offender doesn’t accept the offence, he may be asked to supply a full witness statement to allow Blackpool Council to consider prosecution.
It then, in bold type, advises him of his legal rights, as in the standard police caution at a time of arrest.
Barry added: “I never use the Nissan Micra which is identified in the letter by its number plate for any big trips.
“We use it as a local runabout – it never goes on the motorway these days and I have the evidence that since its last MOT last November, it has actually covered fewer miles than a one-way trip from here to Blackpool.
“The only way I could have dropped that litter is to go up there with it on the back of a low-loader and then headed back south the same way.
“I can only imagine it is a case of the registration number of the offending vehicle being recorded wrong.”
But he said he was “so grateful” he had proof of his innocence.
“If I lived nearer and the evidence wasn’t quite so straightforward to obtain, I can imagine the situation being very worrying indeed,” he added.
New littering from vehicles regulations came into force in last year which mean for the first time councils do not have to identify which person inside the vehicle threw the litter. Instead, they can issue a ticket to the registered keeper of the vehicle – even if they were not present at the time of the offence.
Blackpool Council announced in March that from April 1 this year, on-the-spot fines for the offence would increase from £80 to £150 with reduced early payment rate of £65 if paid within 10 days.
A Blackpool Council spokesman said: “We have received correspondence with regards to this matter.
“We have responded and advised the person issued with a fixed penalty notice how to provide the relevant information needed to potentially close the matter.”
The spokesman added that details of vehicles from which offences are alleged to have been committed can be obtained via manual notes, photography or a combination of both.
However, Barry said no photographic evidence was provided to him in this case.