Published: 00:00, 28 July 2016
| Updated: 08:57, 28 July 2016
Footage showing workmen confronting a Maidstone litter warden has gone viral.
The video shows Roy Godden, 31, and Gary Cocks, 26, being approached by an environmental enforcement officer as they were putting up a fence in a churchyard in Detling - something they say they were doing free of charge.
The council employee claims he had seen them dropping cigarette butts, while the workmen say they had put them in a wheelbarrow.
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The five minute exchange, which has been seen by more than 290,000 people, was posted on Facebook with a request to share and shame the litter warden.
The officer can be heard saying: "I just observed you both chuck it over there," while the man who is filming requests evidence and protests his innocence.
VIDEO: The council employee claims he saw the men dropping cigarette butts.
The warden tells the pair he will pass details of the incident onto the council to decide what action will be taken.
One of the men can be heard saying: "He's got nothing better to do."
The heated debate ends up with the litter warden threatening to call the police if the two men don't provide their details. It is understood he left after around 20 minutes, without their names.
Mr Cocks, from Snodland, said: "We had already seen the guy, he had walked around the corner but kept looking over at us. I had a cigarette and discarded it in the barrow of concrete but he said he saw me throw it on the floor.
"He was very rude and the whole thing was very stressful, because after he went we were just waiting, wondering if the police were going to arrive and arrest us.
"We thought we'd put it online to see what people thought about it and we've been overwhelmed by comments supporting us. I think some people would have been bullied into accepting a fine, but that's not how it works."
The £2,000 work was being done free of charge at St Martin’s Church in The Street by Glebe Fencing.
Owner Jon Martin said: “We went up there to make sure that there wasn’t a case to answer and agreed there wasn’t. It is ironic that we are doing work for free for the parish council and then someone from another council is there trying to fine us. We just wanted to do something for the community.”
Maidstone Borough Council has defended its officer. A spokesman said:“Our enforcement officer spoke to the two gentlemen because he believed he had witnessed littering. After listening to what they were saying, he decided not to issue a fixed penalty notice. He told them that he would refer the matter to us for consideration.
“This was the correct thing to do and is something that can clearly be heard on the video.
“Although there were two cigarette butts in the wheelbarrow this does not mean that they were necessarily the ones which our officer saw. This is one of the things that we would have to take into consideration.
“Littering is a serious problem that the residents of the borough tell us is important to them and which is therefore something we take a robust approach to.
“Our enforcement officers have a very difficult job to do. Enforcement officers quite rightly do not want to give the wrong impression that if confronted they will simply back down, especially if they are being filmed.
“If people wish to contest a fixed penalty notice for littering they can do so in court. We will not tolerate abuse of our officers for doing their job.”
Dropping litter in the borough is punishable by an £80 fine.