In April, Torridge District Council launched a renewed campaign to stamp out dog nuisance incidents in Victoria Park, in the centre of Bideford.
Increased patrols were carried out by officers accredited by Devon and Cornwall Police under the CSAS – Community Safety Accreditation Scheme. The scheme gives council officers limited powers such as obtaining names and addresses from individuals when an offence has been committed for example under anti-social behaviour legislation.
In Torridge, there are only two areas in the whole of the district where dogs must be on a lead at all times, with Victoria Park being designated as one of those locations.
The presence of children’s play areas, paddling pool, grassed areas for picnics and recreation, means that the park has been set aside to reduce the potential nuisance of dogs roaming around freely off lead. Officers from the council spent time engaging with many dog owners and other members of the public who, they found, were overwhelmingly supportive of the initiative.
Despite the campaign, four fixed penalty notices of £100 were issued to owners who had ignored the signs and advice to put their dogs on a lead. Two members of public initially refused to give their details to officers, which in one case led to the police attending, details being obtained, following which a fine was issued.
During the other encounter, the dog owner was identified by another partner organisation, who knew the address of the owner. Council Officers were later able to visit the owner’s address and issued the fine in person to a reportedly very surprised dog owner.
Failure to provide a name and address, when an offence has been committed, is an offence in itself under separate legislation.
The purpose of fixed penalty notices being issued by Torridge are to avoid some offences having to go to court, in an initiative to save police and court time.
Issuing fines is seen by courts as a fair and proportionate way for councils to deal with some offences. If a person fails to accept a fine or pay a fine, the case can then be taken to court, where costs may escalate.
Staci Dorey, Torridge District Council’s Head of Legal and Governance said:
“Fortunately the majority of owners have a responsible approach to dog ownership and public support for this campaign has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Despite the wide publicity a small handful of owners chose to ignore the directive and were subsequently issued with a fixed penalty fine of £100. We would like to thank all the owners that continue to observe the dogs on lead areas in the park so that the space and facilities can be safely shared and enjoyed by everyone.”