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Defendant's fly-tipping case anger

PUBLISHED: 16:45 10 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:49 03 July 2010

AFTER a year of legal proceedings, numerous letters and witness statements, and two court sessions, a fly-tipping case against a Great Yarmouth man was discarded like rubbish - because of a lack of communication between council departments.

AFTER a year of legal proceedings, numerous letters and witness statements, and two court sessions, a fly-tipping case against a Great Yarmouth man was discarded like rubbish - because of a lack of communication between council departments.

The borough council's legal department began the fly-tipping prosecution against Darren Eldridge in April 2007 after one of the council's housing department managers alleged in a statement she had seen him throw rubbish over the balcony of his Dorset Close home.

But it took the council's environmental health department until January this year to tell the legal team no bins had been available for rubbish at the time of the incident, resulting in the case being withdrawn at the magistrates' court on Monday.

Mr Eldridge was not told the proceedings were to be dropped and he paid for a taxi to attend the courthouse hearing.

Chris Skinner, head of the council's central services department, said the cost of the action was only between £50 and £100 of taxpayers' money.

But Mr Eldridge, a single father-of-four, said the emotional strain on him had been huge because he had been grieving the death of an aunt and suffering depression when he was accused of the offence. Ironically, he worked for Luton Borough Council's cleaning department before moving to Yarmouth four years ago.

He said: “I think the whole thing is a joke. I have been put through needless grief right from the word go.”

At the time of the incident, the council was in the process of changing the collection system, which meant closing the communal waste storage facility in Dorset Close and replacing it with a large communal bin.

With a communal bin, refuse collectors could get all the sacks into their lorry at once rather than having to remove each bag individually.

Divorcee Mr Eldridge said he had campaigned for new bins to service the five flats in his block and his maisonette because the old storage room was overflowing with refuse sacks. Residents had often been forced to leave bags outside in the street where local youths ripped them open and threw the contents around, creating a health hazard.

The council brought the prosecution because the housing department manager's witness statement said Mr Eldridge had thrown rubbish over his balcony into the street, which was not correct disposal. However, the witness subsequently amended her statement to say the bag had been dumped where the bins should have been.

The council said it had sent letters to Mr Eldridge asking him to visit the town hall to discuss the situation, but he had not replied, which resulted in a previous court hearing in February.

However, it was only when the defendant pleaded not guilty that the changed witness statement came to light and the council's legal department advised there was insufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution.

Environmental health manager Peter Astle said:

“To us the lack of bins was

not the issue in the first

place. The issue was throwing the rubbish off the balcony, which was not correct disposal.

“Environmental health were prosecuting on the strength of the manager's statement, but when you go to court you have got to prove beyond all reasonable doubt and we could not.”

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