A WALLSEND woman who challenged the state government over the integrity of its “Hey Tosser” litterbug program has won, with authorities dropping an accusation against her.
It comes after the Newcastle Herald reported in June that Karen King refused to pay a $250 fine for allegedly throwing a coffee cup from her car window.
The fine was issued under the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s litter enforcement program, which allows witnesses to littering from a vehicle to report it online.
If there is sufficient detail about the incident, and if the witness confirms they are willing to attend court if there is a dispute, the fine is issued, according to the EPA.
However, Ms King said it was a flawed system that assumed “guilty until proven innocent”.
The mother signed a statutory declaration that said she did not litter, disputed the location of the alleged littering and subsequently raised the matter with her local member.
“There is this process of proving innocence, which is not always easy to do,” Ms King said.
“Anyone can accuse someone else of littering and I think a lot of people just pay the fine because it’s too difficult to fight it.
“When it ran in the Herald, I had people contacting me saying they were in the same situation, that they had been accused of something they didn’t do.
“There’s no formal recourse other than going to court, which costs time and money – I can’t see anywhere where it’s a fair system.”
The EPA acknowledged that the fine had been withdrawn in a letter dated August 21 from the Parliamentary Secretary for Finance, Services and Property, Alister Henskens, to Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery.
Ms King was reported to have littered in February.
“It’s been back and forth since then,” she said.
Ms Hornery confirmed that more of her constituents were contesting litter fines under the program.
"It was evident in [Ms King’s] case that there were far too many inconsistencies with the mandatory criteria,” she said.
"My office has another half a dozen cases waiting for a review by the Minister."
The EPA stood by the integrity of the Hey Tosser campaign, with “over 20 specific mandatory criteria” to be completed by a witness.
“The predominant aim of the system is to deter would-be litterers by increasing the number of potential witnesses to their littering behaviour and subsequently increasing their chances of getting caught and receiving a fine,” a spokeswoman said.
The EPA noted that it was largely successful in having fines issued under the program upheld by the court, with 84 per cent of cases upheld.