Controversial litter enforcement officers Kingdom have been forced to pay fines back after wrongly dishing them out.
The officers from the company gave out three enforcement notices unlawfully to dog walkers in Fenay Bridge and fining them £75 for letting their dogs off leads.
But it turns out they were wrong to do so and now the walkers have had the fines dropped and received an apology from Kirklees Council.
Grandmother, Kathryn Dhurmea, says she was left shocked and upset after letting her six-month-old dog, Lucy, a CockaPoo, off the lead on October 13 at a well-known dog-walking spot, Mereside, near Fenay Beck at the back of Morrisons supermarket, Waterloo.
The semi-retired psychiatric nurse from Lascelles Hall said she had let Lucy off the leash for no more than 20 seconds when the officers from the company which has been heavily criticised in the past for its heavy-handed approach, pounced.
Mrs Dhurmea said: “I had parked my car at Morrisons and took my dog for a walk along the path by the river and walked to Mereside.
“There were five of these officers walking in their uniforms in a group. They said ‘hello’. I let my dog off the lead to have a run.
“This is an area where people meet with their dogs. However, a few seconds later, it can’t have been more than 20 seconds, tops, the man and woman who said ‘hello’, came to me and said they were giving me a fixed penalty fine of £75.
“He said it was for antisocial behaviour for letting my dog off the lead. I didn’t know you were not allowed as there were no signs to say so.
“The man said there was a sign on the main road, which is Penistone Road. I had come through the car park. They asked for my name, address and date of birth, then gave me the fine which says there is no formal right to appeal.
“I walked up to the main road, Penistone Road, and there is no sign. Since then I have walked to Mereside to warn people with dogs of what happened to me. I am 63-years-old and this incident has upset me so much. How do we know where to let our dogs off their leads if their are no signs?”
Mrs Dhurmea took up the issue with her councillor Bernard McGuin, (Con, Almondbury), whose prompt action led to Kingdom’s climbdown.
She added: “I am very grateful to Bernard.”
Kirklees Council pays Kingdom, a private firm, to patrol the streets and hand out £75 fines when they see people littering.
In August it was revealed 2,853 people had been caught dropping rubbish since April, landing them with a £75 fixed penalty notice in the process.
Aidan Hopson from Kirklees Council’s highways and transport department said he was “sorry” for what happened.
He said: “The Public Space Protection Orders in Kirklees require dogs to be on leads on highways, in council car parks, cemeteries, burial grounds, on sports pitches during authorised matches, allotments and bowling greens, also at Castle Hill during ground nesting season and on footpaths over certain parts of agricultural land.
“The riverside at Mereside is none of the above and therefore most dogs do not have to be on leads. The Kingdom officers were unaware of this at the time that they issued the fixed penalty to Mrs Dhurmea.
“It has now been made clear to Kingdom where the Public Space Protection Orders apply. Two other members of the public who were issued with fixed penalties in the same location have since been contacted by Kingdom to apologise and withdraw the fixed penalties.
“I would like to offer my sincerest apologies and I am very sorry that she has been caused so much distress. I do hope that she can continue to enjoy walking her dog by the river without fear that this could happen again.”
Clr McGuin said: “I’m glad that the council recognises a mistake has been made and has rectified it as quickly as possible.”