THE council’s Environment Committee has voted to amended its Enforcement Policy in an effort to avoid criminalising young people.
At their monthly meeting last week, committee members agreed that issuing fixed penalty notices to persons under the age of 18 for offences such as littering should only be considered when other avenues of dealing with the matter have been exhausted.
The move comes after the Department of the Environment issued guidance to local authorities recommending that every effort be made to avoid criminalising young people and that issuing fixed penalty notices should be considered as a last resort.
Members agreed that the council should work to prevent offending by young people by sending letters to parents or guardians, undertaking school based education programmes and by interacting with youth clubs and community groups.
However, a recommendation by officers that the amended policy should state that the local authority “will not issue fixed penalty notices to anyone under the age 18” was queried by councillors, who pointed out that young people know that it is wrong to litter and that at some point they have to be held accountable if they commit offences, particularly older teenagers and persistent offenders.
The council’s Environmental Health Manager, Clifford Todd, revealed that “not a large number” of 16 and 17 year olds have been issued with fines to date, but stressed that the council can still decide to issue fixed penalties to people under 18, particularly those who reoffend.
Members agreed a proposal by councillor Tom Campbell that the wording of the Enforcement Policy be changed to “the council will, where possible, seek to avoid issuing fixed penalty notices to anyone under the age of 18.”
Summing up, Committee Chairman, alderman Billy DeCourcy said: “I think we all agree that we don’t want to criminalise young people, but we can’t just leave the door open for people to do what they want when it suits them.”
The committee’s decision still has to be ratified when the full council meets on January 28.