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Chef Gemma Calver compares Canterbury litter wardens to Nazis after fine for dropping cigarette butt in Sun Street

Litter wardens are being accused of using "Gestapo tactics" to catch people red-handed and hit them with on-the-spot fines.

And anyone daring to dispute their fine is immediately reported to police, it is claimed.

One smoker says Canterbury's new environmental enforcement officers hid round a corner and watched her finish her cigarette in the reflection of a shop window.

Gemma Calver, who was fined for dropping a cigarette butt
Gemma Calver, who was fined for dropping a cigarette butt

They promptly jumped out and fined her £80 when she stubbed out the butt in an alleyway.

Gemma Calver, 30, says her protests and offers to pick up the offending cigarette fell on deaf ears.

Instead, wardens called police when she refused to co-operate – and officers were on the scene within five minutes.

Ms Calver, a chef at Deeson's restaurant in Sun Street, said: "It's so sneaky. They were apparently using a window pane as a mirror to watch me smoke.

"Staff in the shop saw them hiding round the corner – out of my line of sight – waiting for me to finish the cigarette."

Litter wardens on patrol in Canterbury
Litter wardens on patrol in Canterbury

The city's environmental enforcement team is run by a private contractor, Kingdom, which pockets £40 of every £80 ticket issued. The other £40 goes to the council.

Between the two wardens, 121 tickets have been issued in the first 12 days of the scheme – generating £9,680.

Canterbury City Council previously used its own staff to clamp down on littering.

In 2012 they issued just 14 tickets for littering while Maidstone council, which was using contractor Kingdom, issued 4,000 in the same period.

Ms Calver is adamant she safely disposed of her cigarette on the ground next to a bin area.

She said: "I'd been smoking by the back entrance of Debenhams when they first came up to me. They told me to move as it was a fire escape, so I moved," she said.

"They walked off up Sun Street, but must have stayed out of sight waiting to catch me put the cigarette out.

"Why not just tell me the first time? I could have put it out and disposed of it in a bin in the restaurant.

"I know they've got a job to do and I don't want to offend anyone using the term, but these are the sort of tactics you might associate with the Gestapo."

Cartoonist Royston's take on the fines for littering
Cartoonist Royston's take on the fines for littering

Ms Calver says staff at Pork & Co in Sun Street witnessed the initial exchange then watched as the wardens lingered round the corner, observing her in the window's reflection.

She said: "I didn't want to give them my name – why should I get caught out like that?

"It's entrapment. They then said they were calling the police.

"I said 'Fine, I'm going back to work', then two police officers turned up about five minutes later. The whole thing is ridiculous."

Ms Calver says the police told her she had to pay the fine. She says she will contest it and that staff at Pork & Co – in the same restaurant stable as Deeson's – will willingly give witness statements.

Canterbury City Council rejected the comparison with Nazi Germany's infamous secret police and said it could not comment on individual cases.

Assistant director Larissa Reed said: "The new litter enforcement scheme has received a lot of publicity and awareness is growing quickly.

"People need to know that if they drop litter – and this includes cigarette butts and packaging – there is a chance they will be fined.

"The approach is not one of zero tolerance or overzealousness, but to be fair and appropriate when issuing fixed penalty notices.

"If someone receives a fine and believes there are mitigating circumstances, they can write to the enforcement manager at the council offices in Military Road, who will assess it on its own merits and respond accordingly."

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