Bogus letters threaten £500 fine

Published: Friday 28th January 11

The council is urging residents to be wary of bogus letters that are circulating in the borough that threaten to levy fines for breaches of highways legislation.

A number of homes in Putney have received forged letters telling the addressees that they are being fined £500 for obstructing the highway.

But the letters are crude forgeries and could have been produced for a prank or possibly for some kind of scam. They are not genuine.

They contain crude copies of the council's logo and advise the householders that they are being fined for breaching Section 130 of the Highways Act 1980.

The letters are written in what could be described by some as official sounding 'legalese' but in reality the wording is so convoluted, unclear and confusing that town hall bosses would never allow such letters to be sent to members of the public.

They open by stating: "It is the duty of the highway authority to assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway for which they are the highway authority, including any roadside paths.

"Without prejudice to their powers under section 222 of the Local Government Act 1972, a council may, in the performance of their functions under the foregoing provisions of this section, institute legal proceedings in their own name, defend any legal proceedings and generally take such steps as they deem expedient.

"In the event of any unlawful encroachment that has taken place on a roadside path, comprised in a highway for which they are the highway authority, it is the duty of the local highway authority, unless they are satisfied that the representations are incorrect, to take proper proceedings accordingly and may do so in their own name.

"Further to the notices previously sent to the address above, and the non-compliance of the said notices, in pursuance of the above sections of the aforementioned acts, you are herby fined a sum of £500."

The letters go on to say that the payment must be received within ten days to avoid legal action and that people who wish to appeal against the fine have only five days to do so.

The council's assistant director of technical services Kevin Power said that people "should not be fooled" by the letter and described it as "a crude hoax that's clearly false and designed to mislead and confuse."

He added: "People really shouldn't be taken in by this letter. It's probably someone's idea of a practical joke - although there is a possibility that it might be some kind of rip-off or con-trick.

"The legislation it refers to is wrong, the wording is long-winded and confusing and the style and appearance of the letter itself does not conform to anything we would ever send out to residents.

"Councils simply do not have the legal powers to issue fines by letter so it probably is a wind-up - but if anyone receives a letter like this and a few days later someone knocks at their door pretending to be from the council and demanding payment - then they should immediately shut the door and call the police.

"If anyone has received a copy of this letter we would also urge them to contact us so that we can see if these are isolated cases or part of a wider problem."

Anyone who does receive a copy of the letter is advised to call (020) 8871 6704 straight away.

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