A by-election candidate has dismissed claims made by a local councillor over his plans to rid the town of dog dirt.
In last week’s Hawick News, Councillor Davie Paterson claimed police would be “actively pursuing people who fail to clean up after their dog and will be issuing fixed penalty notices” and that he was “not prepared to sit back and watch a minority spoil it for the majority”.
But according to Watson McAteer, pictured, Mr Paterson’s claims are little more than hollow rhetoric if Scottish Borders Council fails to take court action because of the cost involved in taking offenders to court.
A Freedom of Information request lodged by Mr McAteer shows that during the past two years, only 12 of 68 fixed penalties issued in Hawick have been paid, 20 were withdrawn on appeal, 36 were reinvoiced with an additional £20 late payment charge but no court proceedings were started.
And this, according to Mr McAteer, is lamentable: “The fact is that the administration of this lies with SBC. It does not matter who issues the ticket, if SBC fail to pursue or take any action then they are wasting everybody’s time. Non-payment should lead to a referral to the procurator fiscal for court proceedings.
“Fixed penalty tickets are issued as an alternative to conviction and intended to allow the guilty a simpler and more efficient way of owning up to their responsibilities.
“The Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act, 2003, places administration of the procedures with the council and no matter how much effort is made by the police or any of the empowered council employees to issue tickets, if law-breakers are allowed to act without fear of facing justice then the health risks to our children and the antisocial behaviour that blights our town will continue.”
But Councillor Paterson is unrepentant: “I have been assured by police that they will be prosecuting anyone who fails to pay fixed penalties. This is nothing more than blatant electioneering from Watson McAteer. He was in charge of the police for years and what did he do to resolve the dog fouling situation?”
And Mr McAteer added: “Those who break the law must be held to account whatever it costs SBC.”