A woman was left ‘absolutely gobsmacked’ when she was ordered to pay £1,000 for walking her dog off his lead.
Mother-of-two Jane Hurry, 54, was crossing playing fields in Colchester, Essex, in January this year when she was approached by a council warden who informed her she was being fined £100 because her four-year-old Alsatian, Max, was not on his lead.
Ms Hurry moved house soon after the incident and didn’t receive letters ordering her to appear before magistrates last week.
She failed to attend court and was fined £500 in her absence – plus £450 costs and a £50 surcharge.
Ms Hurry, who works as an activities co-ordinator in care homes, said: ‘I was walking Max across the playing field when I saw the council chap getting out of his car.Meghan Markle speaks about Queen in first film since royal wedding
‘It was tipping it down with rain and I was walking between a couple of the pitches – not on the fields of play.
‘He said: “Do you realise your dog should be on its lead. Have you not seen the signs? It’s an offence to walk your dog off the lead”.
‘I told him he should stick around as there are at least 20 or 30 people every day who walk their dogs off their leads.
‘I’d not been there for a while as I suffer from bad arthritis so my walks had been short but if I had known about the rule, Max would have been on his lead.
‘I had not noticed any signs at all warning of the rule.Baby burned by cigarette thrown into her pram by a stranger
‘£1,000 is one heck of a lot of money. I’ll never find it in a million years.’
After moving house earlier this year, Ms Hurry has only sporadically received her mail from the new occupant. She only discovered on Friday (24 August) that she should have been in court the previous day.
‘I would have pleaded guilty […] but I would have stood up and had my say.
‘£1,000 is a ridiculous amount of money to have to pay. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I found out.
‘If it was for dog fouling I could understand – I would have held my hands up, but this was for a law that I knew nothing about.’Dad dies taking heroin for first time while grieving death of daughter, 2
Colchester Borough Council said Jane ‘failed to comply with a public spaces protection order’ when she allowed Max off his lead ‘on and around the Mill Road sports pitches’.
The order, which was introduced in 2016 after residents became fed up with dogs fouling on the pitches, bans the animals from being on the pitches entirely, and dictates they must be kept on a lead if they are being walked on the outskirts.
Anyone breaching the order is breaking the law under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.
Offenders are initially issued with a £100 fine but if they don’t pay it, they are sent two reminder letters over the following weeks. If the warnings are still ignored, the council then takes them to court.
A Colchester Borough Council spokesman added: ‘At no point in this particular case did we receive any communication from the defendant.’Council workers build road around a lamppost at new entrance to primary school
Local councillor Martin Goss said: ‘The clear message is if you do break the law, please just pay the fine because if it goes to court the magistrates will find against you in your absence.’
Mr Goss said a number of fines had been issued under the order since it was introduced in October 2016, but this was the first time a recipient had not responded.
He added the playing fields are now under regular council surveillance and the number of warnings issued or tickets issued has ‘significantly dropped’.