Changes to Fixed Penalty Notices for Environmental Offences

Victoria Teece, Freeths, Nottingham

On 30th October 2017 new regulations were passed amending the current regulations relating to Fixed Penalty Notices for Environmental Offences such as littering, graffiti, fly posting and fly tipping.

The new regulations, the Environmental Offences (Fixed Penalties) (England) Regulations 2017 (the Regulations”), will come into force on 1st April 2018.

Fixed Penalty Notices (“FPNs”) are a civil enforcement sanction and are used by Local Authorities and some other authorised persons including Police Community Support Officers, Environment Agency and National Park Authority, as an alternative to prosecution for certain offences. FPNs usually specify a fixed fine but can offer a discounted fine if payment is made early; the Regulations refer to this as the “lesser penalty”.

Consultation for the new regulations took place between April and June 2017. The consultation focused on fines not having been changed since 2006, fines not being consistent with other parts of the UK, and fines not being consistent with similar types of offending, such as dog fouling.

What’s New?

The regulations make the following changes to the levels of penalties:

The Regulations also:

  • remove the requirement for the Secretary of State to approve training courses for Parish Council’s relating to officers issuing FPNs; and
  • revoke the Environmental Offences (Fixed Penalties) (England) Regulations 2007. This means that the restrictions relating to how Councils can use income from FPNs for littering, graffiti and fly posting have been removed.

Upcoming Consultation

It is often perceived that Councils use FPNs as an income-generating tool. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has committed to consulting on improvements to the guidance, available to Councils, relating to the proportionate use of FPNs as an enforcement tool.

Practical considerations when issuing FPNs 

When issuing FPNs, we recommend Councils do the following: 

  • ensure the offence is properly specified, including the type of offence e.g. littering;
  • include sufficient details about the offence, e.g. dropping a cigarette butt;
  • specify the date, time and location of the offence;
  • ensure the method of issue is included e.g. in person or by post;
  • clearly set out the full fine imposed and any discounted rate for early payment, specifying the time limit for any early payment;
  • clearly set out when the fine must be paid by;
  • detail clearly the method of payment of the fine;
  • set out any appeals process including how to appeal, time limits and what happens after appeal;
  • set out the complaints procedure; and
  • keep legible copies of all FPNs on file, in case the matter proceeds to further legal action.

If you would like advice relating to FPNs for environmental offences, please contact our Vicki Teece by email (victoria.teece@freeths.co.uk) or by telephone (0845 272 5732).