Using penalty notices would free up parks police for more patrols

Published: Friday 21st July 17

The council is backing proposals to change the way bad behaviour is dealt with in its biggest parks and open spaces which would free up the borough’s parks police officers to carry out additional patrols.

Some of Wandsworth’s larger green spaces are covered by a series of byelaws that cover many types of anti-social and undesirable behaviour such as rowdiness and aggressive or dangerous cycling.

Under the current system, if a parks police officer wants to enforce these byelaws, he or she must liaise with town hall lawyers in order to issue a summons, obtain and prepare witness statements and prepare the case for court.

This is a time consuming process that means an officer is required to spend considerable periods of time filling out paperwork or attending court waiting for the case to be heard instead of going out on patrol.

To streamline this system and make it more efficient, the council is supporting a consultation being conducted by London Councils – the umbrella organisation that represents the capital’s 32 boroughs – that would allow minor offences to be dealt with by way of a fixed penalty notice.

Issuing FPNs instead of court summonses would free up time in the magistrate’s court and most importantly reduce paperwork and allow the parks police more time to spend on patrol providing a visible reassurance to parks visitors.

The FPNs would give offenders the chance to pay a fine of £80 without needing to go to court, but still allow those who dispute the issue or feel unfairly treated the option to have their case heard and the evidence tested in front of magistrates.

The parks police also have the training and powers to detain offenders who have committed more serious offences like thefts and assaults. More serious cases like these would not be dealt with by way of an FPN and would continue to be dealt with in court.

The council’s community safety spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “People in Wandsworth very much value having a visible uniformed parks police presence in their open spaces.

“They find it immensely reassuring to know there are well-trained officers on patrol dedicated to maintaining their safety and security.

“Anything we can do to cut down the bureaucracy and paperwork so they can spend the maximum amount of time out on patrol has got to be a good thing. This is why we are supporting this change and why we would urge people who share that view to take part in the consultation.

“In my view an £80 fine is a perfectly suitable and adequate way of dealing with less serious issues like dangerous cycling rather than the costly and time consuming alternative of taking cases to court.

“And if people feel they have been unfairly penalised or wrongly accused they will still have the option of having their case heard in court. This important safeguard guarantees their right to a fair and impartial hearing of the evidence.”

The open spaces where the change would apply are Battersea Park, Garratt Green, Tooting Common, Wandsworth Common and Wandsworth Park.

The consultation, which can be completed online here, runs until Sunday, September 3. Further information is available on the London Councils website.

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Recent comments

Excellent idea. In the light of massive cuts not excluding the police- Less is More? but 5 into 2 will not go. For me personally its the cyclist who ride on pavements, on the common paths- made & unmade they appear always in a hurry & that dog walkers young children are an impediment- I do not know what gives them this right?.. The small park next to St Georges hospital taken over by unsocial elements of society.. Laws only really work if there is enforcement & a deterrent or else lets erect dummy sleeping authority figures.
Nick Low

8 August 2017

I am in favour of giving the parks staff the authority
stephen bassnett

4 August 2017

Provide safer & more areas to cycle, then cyclists won't cycle on footpaths. It is not rocket science. It works in Clapham Common. Provide a north-south cycle path in Wandsworth Common for example & then cyclists won't ride on the existing north-south footpaths. Cyclists ride on footpaths not out of disregard but because it is safer than other options, less danger to being hit by a truck etc & less exposure to diesel fumes. Issuing Fixed Penalty notices for cycling on footpaths in a park is negative. Surely encouraging and investing in people to be happier & healthier is the correct approach to prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes and mental health problems etc which cost the NHS billions whilst reducing air pollution at the same time.
Gill Allen

2 August 2017

Ref recent reports of muggings on Tooting Common by young men on bikes it would be very welcome to have more parks police patrolling trouble spots. As a frequent walker there I feel it is a great shame to feel that this kind of behaviour can be carried out with impunity.
L Noble

22 July 2017

Since the original Parks Police were removed some years ago, there are now only around 12 officers to cover more than 30 green spaces in Wandsworth. By all means find a way of giving these hardworking people more time to deal with other offences. However, some of the crimes cannot be dealt with in the way proposed. It was a great shame that Boris's Bog-off was ever taken up. We need more officers.
susan lofthouse

21 July 2017

Dangerous cycling kills 0.5 people in the UK each year. Instead of wasting time fining people who are of little real threat to people - and of significantly less threat to park users than lightning - the council should prioritise tackling the obscene death, injury and ill health caused by motor vehicles. This proposal is simply another way to harass people for trying to get about safely - either put in sufficient protected bike lanes on the roads or accept that people are going to cycle in footpaths.
Simon Shields

21 July 2017

What about smaller places? I am taking my kids quite often to Tooting Gardens small park next to St George's hospital. That used to be a very nice place but for the last year it becomes a meeting point for drunk people. Every day the same faces with can of beer in hand... Police were here a few times but just to walk through and doing nothing.
Ryszard Pilorz

21 July 2017