a shoulder lapel with an enforcement officer's number on it
Credit: Torfaen Council

Story by Twm Owen, local democracy reporter

SUSPECTED litter louts could be asked to wait up to four hours for police to attend if they refuse to give council wardens their name. 

Civil enforcement officers, employed by councils, have the power to issue on the spot fines for littering and dog fouling but cannot detain suspects or demand they give their name or address. 

Torfaen Borough Council’s four enforcement officers who issue parking tickets also have the power to issue fines for environmental offences such as littering and dog fouling. 

But figures show while the council – which took over the enforcement from private firm Kingdom in 2019 – hasn’t issued any fines for environmental offences in the past two years the same officers issued 4,200 parking tickets this financial year alone. 

Gavin Newman, the council’s team leader for highways, traffic and enforcement, told the cleaner communities scrutiny committee it is “easier” to issue a parking ticket as officers will see a vehicle illegally parked and can issue a ticket while they would need to witness dog fouling or littering. 

He said: “Feedback from officers is sometimes it is very difficult to get that information, people give false names and they sometimes refuse to give any information at all and it is a very long and time-consuming process.” 

Blaenavon independent councillor Nick Horler asked what powers the council’s officers have to obtain those details and Mr Newman replied: “Officers have the power to request them, they can’t force them.  

“They then have to ask the police to come out and obtain that information and as you can imagine the resource issue the police are facing at the moment sometimes, the officers tell me, they can be waiting literally four hours for an officer to come out, if at all. It is very challenging.” 

Independent Cllr Elizabeth Haynes said: “There are videos from across the country of people intervening during enforcement telling offenders they do not have to give their contact details to enforcement officers and actually just telling them to walk away.” 

She asked if Mr Newman could clarify the position and he repeated if officers witness an offence they “have the power” to request someone’s details and he said there is a “lot of misinformation on social media and You Tube”. 

He added: “Ultimately if someone refuses to give that information the only option an officer currently has is for the police turn up and obtain that information.” 

The Cwmbran St Dials member then asked: “Just to clarify officers don’t have the right to detain?” 

Mr Newman confirmed: “Our officers can’t detain anybody.” 

Upper Cwmbran Labour member Steve Evans asked if footage from body worn cameras enforcement officers carry could be used as evidence for a prosecution. 

Mr Newman said the cameras are “mainly worn” for protection of the officers when dealing with the public and aren’t recording all the time. 

“If they have an interaction with a member of the public they put the body worn camera on and tell the member of the public they are recording for their protection and the protection of the member of the public,” said Mr Newman. 

He added his only experience of body worn footage being used as evidence was by the police after an officer in the authority he previously worked at was assaulted and also in a complaint against an officer at that authority, before he joined Torfaen six months ago.