Courts not kind to council litter prosecutions

Westmeath County Council will continue to fight the battle against litter, even though the courts are “not kind” to the local authority’s prosecutions.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of Westmeath County Council, acting head of finance, Jimmy Dalton said the council is doing quite a lot of work to counteract litter in the county and there is a three year litter management plan in place.

However, he said litter management is “an ongoing battle, not one we’ll ever win or lose”.

“The court systems are not kind to us in bringing cases before the courts,” he said seriously, though his comment elicited a round of giggles from elected representatives.

The council was due last week to make a €750 contribution to Kinnegad Tidy Towns after Judge Seamus Hughes last month criticized the “over-zealous prosecution” of a man whose family left a shoe-sized cardboard box at the Kinnegad bring-bank earlier this year.

The case drew considerable national interest, as the judge questioned whether local authorities had nothing better to do with their time than prosecute people who, according to the council’s own CCTV images, had meticulously separated out their glass bottles by colour and had taken away their other container.

However, because the council’s 2011 budget has been spent, solicitor Vicky McCarthy requested an adjournment, so the money can be paid in 2012.

Judge Hughes adjourned the case to February 15 for the council to provide the court with a receipt for payment.

But he refused to allow Ms McCarthy to read a statement from the council to the State, saying she should issue her statements to the press.

At the council meeting, Coole area councillor Frank McDermott asked whether the proposed spend of €320,000 on litter management was good value for money.

But afterwards he conceded that litter management is labour intensive and the towns and streets “would be a disaster” if the work wasn’t done.

He also said the mobile mechanical sweeper has made “a colossal difference” to north Westmeath, improving the amenity with spectacular results.

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