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Unbalanced justice

AS I read the Swindon Advertiser, May 10, I began to wonder just how equitable our justice system is.

The front page headlines, “Bus lane pulls in £500,000 a year” was followed by a report, on page 2, which explained since June 2014 51,180 drivers were fined a total of £1.5m for taking the wrong turn near the Designer Outlet.

The signage indicates only buses and cycles are allowed to use this route. Some may argue that anyone unfamiliar with this road junction may have mistakenly taken the wrong turn.

Conversely, it could be argued they weren’t paying sufficient attention to the signage.

The people who paid their fines almost certainly have registered vehicles which can easily be cross referenced to a home address.

On receipt of a fixed penalty notice fine most of the offenders would have accepted responsibility for the violation of a traffic regulation and paid up.

On the same page as the report on bus lane fines was the report “Waste removal worker fined £2,000 for flytipping.”

A man from Swindon was fined £2,000 after he admitted dumping rubbish, including a bath tub, toilet and sink, in Longcot.

Paul Holland, the environmental protection manager at Vale of White Horse District Council said: “Fly-tipping can be a real blight on the landscape and shows a total disregard for the community in that area.”

This comment will undoubtedly reflect the opinion of anyone who is concerned about the quality of their environment.

Turning to page 5, of the Swindon Advertiser, I read “’Disgusting mess’ is left by Travellers.” The group of travellers who were squatting on fields at Lydiard Park last week moved on, leaving human excrement and the wreckage of a car behind them.

For decades, the Advertiser has reported on the anti-social activities of travellers who commandeer public land. Swindon Council’s response to this problem is depressingly predictable. One of our civic representatives says how disgusting this type of behaviour is, they express their sympathy with residents frustrations, tell us how efficient they were at clearing up the filth and mess left behind and say there is virtually nothing they can do to counter this disgusting behaviour.

Coun Tim Swinyard said: “It is very frustrating. Unfortunately our hands are very much tied by the law.” And “Attempting to prosecute the travellers for leaving the mess was difficult.”

For any residents who have suffered from the anti-social behaviour of certain Traveller groups this pathetic response must have gone down like a lead balloon.

Any law abiding group wanting to use public land would have to observe certain rigorous requirements. These may include, application for a permit, paying a fee, providing an insurance certificate, abiding by health and safety regulations, providing portable toilets and leaving a financial deposit to cover the possibility of damage or a clean up.

While services are cut hard working tax payers are subjected to ever increasing council tax bills. The council is always reminding us that public resources are scarce and more austerity is on the way.

Why should the financial consequences of the anti-social activities by certain “untouchable” groups continue to be funded from the public purse?

I see no justification for allowing Travellers to abuse a system to which everyone else is accountable. It is about time our authorities got to grips with this persistent problem and dispensed justice on an even-handed basis.

K KANE, Wharf Road, Wroughton

Are Travellers exempt?

IN RESPECT of the response from the borough council in the May 13 Swindon Advertiser and car parking enforcement at Lydiard Park one would now conclude that Travellers are exempt from car parking charges, infringement penalties and I assume fly tipping / litter enforcement.

I conclude SBC will now state this on their website page and their display signage.

If a member of the public should receive a penalty notice or be taken to court for an alleged parking or fly tipping offence in the future, they might wish to consider defending such on the grounds stated in the SBC Enforcement Policy:

6. There has been a procedural impropriety by the enforcement authority. It appears certain lifestyles are being given a dispensation for alleged breaching of regulations. Why are these lifestyles not stated? i.e. inconsistency of enforcement procedure.

9. Other grounds mitigation. Evidence the council has a record of such being received from these groups. Accepted this and concluded no enforcement action to recover costs will be implemented in such circumstances. A level playing field.

If I were a Traveller, where would I decide to park next? In an authority’s area that lets me do with no repercussion, or in an authority’s area that seeks to pursue costs for infringements? Not really a difficult question to answer.

PETER AMIES, Lineacre Close, Grange Park, Swindon

Maggie is to blame

BILL Williams is too scared to look at Swindon Borough Council’s current debt figures, (Different directions SA May 13), while I look at them with dismay.

I can proudly say that we had a Labour Council and healthy reserves right up to when I took my pension in December, 1990.

However, it was only a few years earlier that Maggie Thatcher had disbanded the not for profit District Audit Service and replaced it with the much lighter touch commercial audit, thus opening the door for the rot to set in.

District auditors had enjoyed sweeping powers to recover not only illegal but also ill-advised spending from elected councillors and senior officers who they deemed responsible.

As a result everyone thought long and hard before spending ratepayers’ money.

The most famous surcharge of all time was £9m imposed on Lady Porter to recover costs incurred to rig the political make-up of the electorate in several wards of the London Borough of Westminster.

Maggie did us no favours when she got rid of District Audit. I’m sure that Swindon Borough Council would not have squandered money on the ill-fated wi-fi project had District Audit still been responsible for approving the borough’s accounts.

DON REEVE, Horder Mews, Old Town, Swindon

Economy crumbling

IN REPLY to Steve Halden (May 13) the computer crash within the NHS is just one more example that the infrastructure of the British economy is crumbling.

Major operations had to be cancelled and patients’ lives were put at risk because the NHS computers had been closed down by hackers.

It seems that the NHS systems were very old and cannot be protected from attacks from the internet.

In Swindon many libraries are closing and the council does not have the money to sweep the streets, mend the potholes and clear the drains.

Everywhere we look we see the economic infrastructure of Britain crumbling away and the Government has to borrow £1bn a week just to keep its head above water.

TERRY HAYWARD, Burnham Road, Swindon

Keep dogs muzzled

I FELT very distressed to read that a beautiful swan has allegedly succumbed to yet another irresponsible dog owner (SA 13 May).

Swans will protect their young when necessary and too often have I witnessed dogs unleashed with their owners on the Wichelstow lakes and canal terrorising the wildlife, also other domestic animals.

It was only Friday, May 12, a small black friendly cat approached me as I walked near the fields leading to Wichelstow and a golden retriever set upon it - fortunately the cat was able to make a quick escape.

I feel dog owners should keep their animals on a short lead or muzzled in public places and if they do not keep to the rules a heavy fine should be imposed.

Also, if unleashed dogs cause injury to other pets then the owners should be responsible and pay the vets fees etc.

We hear too often of children being mauled to death by roaming dogs, it is high time dog owners are penalised with heavy fines or custodial sentences.

ANNE POLLARD, Goddard Avenue, Swindon

We pay to use the tip

I READ with interest the letter from Steve Halden about showing proof of address at the local recycling centre.

As most people who attend the recycling centre pay their council tax I can’t imagine that anyone at the recycling centre, who asks for this proof has any legal right to do so.

So what happens if you refuse? Are they going to cart you off to court? I very much doubt it.

I appreciate that there can be problems, but I pay my council tax and, to my mind, that entitles me to use any recycling centre in Wiltshire. Unless, of course there is something I have missed. Has it anything to do with the parish precept?

CHRIS GLEED, Proud Close, Purton