This found its way to me via fellow Nottingham blogger Benjamin Barton who has been having a bit of a busy time with the old Freedom of Information requests to our dear old council.
Ben asked a few pertinent questions about the issuing of fixed penalty notices for littering and the like, what NCC likes to dub 'enviro-crime', and got himself an interesting response.
The council disclosed that, at the time of writing, they had 1898 fixed penalty notices outstanding, by which they mean that the fine is unpaid and over 21 days old. After stating that there is no 'average time' for a summons to be issued (clearly not true, there will be an average time, they just haven't bothered to calculate it but I digress) it gets really interesting, saying that -
"... however there is a statutory bar at six months [for issuing a summons], meaning that if a summons has not been issued within six months of the date of the fine, it is not pursued. It is not unusual for the backlog to push the outstanding fine over the six month bar, in which case no summons is issued."
So, I thought, don't pay your fine and you have a chance that you might get away with it if your case falls off the back end of the shelf. Not a good situation for anybody I don't think. Whatever your view of fixed penalty notices you'd at least want the system to be operated as fairly as possible.
You see, once it becomes inevitable that not all FPNs are recovered, then someone has to decide which ones are allowed to lapse. This could be done by individual officers 'using their discretion' on the fly, which, and I want to make this absolutely clear, obviously does NOT mean dumping their mates' FPNs down the recycling chute or maybe backing off when the local hard man's name pops up a bit too regularly, then using the time freed up to pick on easy to trace types such as disabled and mentally ill owner occupiers. Or it can be governed by a policy, in order to ensure some fairness.
I think it would be useful to find out which approach NCC uses so I've submitted a follow up FoIA request. You can see it here and I'll post again when I get a response. Which of course, as a matter of principle, will be an absolute minimum of 20 working days.