Plan to use penalty notices could free up parks police for more patrols

Published: Wednesday 30th August 17

There is still time for people to have their say on council-backed proposals to change the way bad behaviour is dealt with in its biggest parks and open spaces which could 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 London Councils consultation, which can be completed online here, runs until Sunday, September 3.

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Recent comments

I think it is a very good idea to issue FPNs because it can be the 'lower down the scale' Offences that can be concerning and annoying.
Pauline regan

5 September 2017

you've got to be joking. giving these guys on the spot powers to be judge/jury/executioner is a total miscarriage of justice. A courtroom is where justice is decided, not at the whim of the ego wielding parks police.
SWB

4 September 2017

I agree the rules-breaking cyclists in Battersea Park are scary for others enjoying the park. However, when I have dared to point out their anti-social behaviour to them, they either ignore me or very often tell me they were not aware of any signs showing where they can/cannot cycle.I must agree with them: the signs ought to be MUCH more visible and more frequent.So perhaps at the first instance the signs should be altered and if this won't work, then start giving fines.
E.May

3 September 2017

Yes this should help quieten those playing cricket on Wandsworth common. And the noisy kids in the playgrounds. And lets not forget the keepfit instructors shouting at their clients. Hopefully this will also extend to the roads surrounding the parks. Trinity Road is full of cars revving, and the other streets around the parks are no better.
Mark

3 September 2017

I feel it is good to give police officers more power to control minor offences on the spot. If training is provided and due process is observed this is a good way of taking people to account for irresponsible and selfish behaviour.
G. Medina

2 September 2017

Bit of an undercurrent about cyclists. Shared use is always tricky, but look at the alternatives around Wandsworth common for example, especially for school children. Londoners will cycle more, and use of public spaces will need change. There are better ways (probably more expensive) than just PCNs in making this work. Wandsworth can manage this by avoiding over-enthusiastic issuing of fines along with education for residents, schools and in parks, where the parks police can have an active and positive role.
Chris

2 September 2017

On the spot fines are a great idea. Am sure it will make a difference to all of us that use the parks and commons if people are made to pay for bad behaviour. Cyclists can be especially scary but how do you catch up with them?
Julia Mancini

2 September 2017

Frankly this is a nonsense as the police fail to enforce actual and persistent real cases of anti-social behaviour in and around the streets of Wandsworth, further this is nothing more than another step towards a police state. If a person is guilty of an offence then let the officer come forward with sufficient evidence in a court of law.
Mark

2 September 2017

I was horrified they weren't being fined the spot before now. I walk in battersea park every morning and the cyclists using the park is increasing and the weekends are just unpleasant now. Wandsworth common is just as ghastly between 7-9 with the schools.
Clarissa Dent

1 September 2017

On the face of it sensible, but like Maurice I'm concerned at where it'll lead. In practice there is no real hope of fighting an unfair FPN in court, as the risks of doing so are too high - far higher than those suggested. 20 years ago I elected to fight a patently unfair Met Police £60 parking FPN (on a main road, so not disputable in a low-cost informal hearing). The case was in a magistrate's court, as it must be; to the visible distaste of the JPs I defended myself (hiring a lawyer was out of the question), and I was completely thrown by my ignorance of legal procedure (and the lies of the Warden). I ended up with a fine+costs of nearly £1,000. This works the same way: do NOT believe Cllr's Cook's assurances, they are worth nothing.
Ossiebee

1 September 2017

I think this is a bad idea and could easily turn into a money making venture. No doubt the £80 fine will be doubled if you go to court and do not pay within 14 days. Why should a single person's unsupported view, even if they are a Policeman be allowed to fine someone the considerable sum of £80 for an offence which might be extremely minor. It will rapidly become the default action in the Park rather than just warning or talking to people.
Maurice Eaton

1 September 2017

I support this move: but I wonder whether £80 is enough of a deterrent? Parking fines are much higher - though they do offer a discount if paid promptly. I would also suggest an escalating scale of fines for repeat performances of bad behaviour. I am particularly exercised by cyclists who disregard all 'no cycling' notices and are abusive if one remonstrates with them.
Natalie Wheen

1 September 2017

To allow the police to issue fixed penalty notices is a very sensible proposal, which I hope will be approved.
Sally Orman

30 August 2017

Good idea - I'm in favour. Only thought is - will the patrols have recording equipment to help secure convictions?
Michael Langdon

30 August 2017