I Have To Pay 50 Pounds So I Don’t Get Deported

I’m on hold with the Edinburgh City Counsel.

I’ll probably get this whole post written before anyone answers. But I’ll wait patiently as I need to pay a fine so I don’t end up in Scottish prison and Huckleberry doesn’t end up at the Royal Animal Shelter.

On Friday night, I went to my old flat to pick up Huck’s crate and any last bits of mail that may have come through. To my surprise, there was an official letter from Edinburgh City Counsel. I opened it, half expecting it to be confirmation of the change of address notification I sent them (since it was sent to my old address).

I stared in disbelief at a notice of a “Fixed Penalty” (read: fine). I was accused of Fly-Tipping. No shame if you had to click on the link, I Googled it, too.

The letter explained that a cardboard box with my name and address on the label and a UPS delivery note were found sitting outside a full dumpster on Angle Park Terrace. The fine for my environmental misconduct was 50 pounds (about $75.)

Initially, I was humiliated. I knew I should have recycled the cardboard and felt bad throwing it away, but I was moving and there were not any recycling dumpsters in my neighborhood. I’m usually a better steward of the environment.

But, the ticket was not for recycling so my embarrassment quickly became rage: I THREW ALL OF MY RUBBISH IN THE BIN! I MAY NOT ALWAYS RECYCLE, BUT I SURE AS HELL NEVER LITTER!!!!! Safe to say, I was madder than a Doberman with the rabies virus infecting his limbic system.

The letter said there was no appeals process and that if I did not pay the fine, I could be charged with a criminal offense and sentenced to pay 40,000 pounds and spend up to 5 years in prison.

No appeals process? I take issue with that.

Monday morning, I called the number on the ticket to ask about appealing. I was passed off to three separate offices before reaching the environmental wardens responsible for issuing my ticket. The supervisor wasn’t available, so I spoke with a man named Cheeky Tom.

I explained to Cheeky that I had indeed disposed of my rubbish properly and that I didn’t know how it ended up outside the bin. I said maybe someone took my boxes out and put their garbage in. He patronizingly told me that sounded pretty far-fetched and that I could either take this as a learning lesson and pay the ticket or wait to see if the city pursues the criminal charges and takes me to court. A learning lesson? Seriously.

After getting off the phone with Cheeky, I was madder than a kitten who had just been baptized. Having been raised in a household where we used words and not fists and handled unsatisfactory customer service with a letter to the manager, I e-mailed the shop supervisor.

Good morning Ms. Dickson,

I just got off the phone with someone in your office (I believe his name was Tom, but I’m not sure, we didn’t have the best connection) and he recommended I write to you with my question about a fixed penalty I received in the mail.

The penalty is numbered 04488 and dated the 21st of January at my old address of 40 (2F3) Angle Park Terrace, Edinburgh, EH11 2JR.

I only received it this weekend when I went back to my old flat to collect mail.
I understand that somehow my rubbish must have ended up outside of the bin and this is why I was issued a fine. However, I moved out of the flat on the 18th of January and assure you that I properly disposed of my rubbish before leaving. The bins on Angle Park do get full, but all of my waste was placed inside.

From the letter I received, I understand there is no official appeals process for this penalty. I was told my options were to pay it and take it as a learning lesson or ignore it and see if charges are brought against me. I’m not from Edinburgh. I’m a student here and most certainly do not want to get into trouble, but I also don’t want to pay a fine for something I didn’t do.

I would appreciate any additional information in regards to this fine and my options for moving forward.

Thank you so much.

Respectfully,
Erin Dixon

She responded today with a forwarded e-mail from the issuing officer Russ:

On 21/01/14 I found cardboard domestic waste dumped next to 660l communal bin which was overflowing but there was space in 4 communal bins further along the street. I found x1 Amazon box with Erin Dixon, 40(2f3) Angle Park Terrace, Edinburgh EH11 2JR, I also found x1 UPS delivery note with same name and address. I visited address at the time but got no answer, card left. I re-visited on 23/01/2014 and still got no answer. I posted Fixed Penalty Notice to the accused with a covering letter explaining the offence.

I believe the evidence found relates to Ms Dixon and if she only moved out on the 18th January which was a Saturday it feasibly could have been lying there since Saturday. If she doesn’t want to pay then we will let the fiscal decide.

Regards
Russ

When I read the response from Officer Russ (assuming you call Environmental Wardens Officers), I was madder than a hornet stuck in a bottle of half empty Mountain Dew.

I called the Advice Place. I don’t know the burden of proof in Scotland. I don’t know much about the legal system and if I would be able to prove my innocence or if they would even get around to taking me to court before my visa expired in 2017.

The girl I chatted with on the phone empathized as her flatmate once received a fine for the exact same thing. She couldn’t advise me to ignore the fine as being charged with a criminal offense could endanger my visa status, so we decided my best course of action would be to cough up the 50 quid and henceforth incinerate any identifying information in a pot on my stove-top prior to throwing it away, since, apparently, in Scotland, you can be held responsible for what other people do to your rubbish after you’ve abandoned it to the bin.

I waited on hold 77 minutes. I enjoyed a glass of wine and started writing this blog post. I was not going to be madder than a spoiled American Ex-Pat who grew up in a justice system where you are innocent until proven guilty when I talked to the Council rep on the phone. They just get paid to take my information, not my attitude. While I was on hold, the office closed and I was unable to pay the fine tonight. I’ll try again tomorrow, that is if they don’t send a warden to raid my flat and arrest in the middle of the night tonight, anyway.

While I was on hold, I also decided to send an e-mail response to let them know I would be paying the fine.

This is what I wanted to write:

Dear Ms. Dickson,

Thank you for your response to my e-mail. I do standby my innocence in this situation and will happily explain to any judge that I deposited my rubbish properly in the bin when I was moving flats last month.

Frankly, I find it insulting to be treated as a guilty party in a crime that I was not even seen committing. For all you know, one of my neighbors pulled my boxes out of the bin to place their rubbish inside. I don’t know who would do that, but maybe check your records and see if anyone on Angle Park Terrace has gotten in trouble for fly tipping before. I know after this experience, I wouldn’t hesitate to remove someone else’s garbage from the dumpster to ensure my own was securely inside.

But, I jest. I would never really take anyone’s garbage out of the bin. I am an environmental science major and care too much about our planet to contribute to the discarded garbage I find all over the fair city of Edinburgh. Plus, I believe in karma and hope that whoever removed my cardboard boxes is repaid tenfold for the trouble they have caused me.

Ms. Dickson, I feel bullied right now. For all I know, Officer Russ could have removed my rubbish from the bin himself, taken pictures of it, and written the fine. Do Environmental Wardens get a commission?

What if I had given those boxes to someone else who needed to use them to move and then that person hadn’t disposed of them properly.

What if the boxes were removed from the bin by a strong wind. Would you recommend I attach bricks to all of my rubbish before disposing of it to make sure wind can’t pick it up and remove it from the bin?

Lastly, adding insult to injury, this bogus fine was sent to my old address several days after I had updated the council with my new mailing address. I would like an apology from the City Council for willfully neglecting my change of address and sending this fine to my old flat.

Ms. Dickson, I understand improper rubbish disposal is a huge issue in this city. Never in my life have I lived anywhere with so much trash in the streets, and I have lived in Tijuana, Mexico, so that’s really saying something. If you insist on taking my 50 pounds, may I suggest it go towards an additional bin on Angle Park Terrace? They really are always overflowing. Also, I’d like an environmental warden to regularly patrol my current neighborhood as, over the weekend, I had to step around a half eaten sandwich, what appeared to be a chunk of black pudding, some plastic cutlery, various cigarette butts, dog feces, and three puddles of vomit on the sidewalk. Also, someone (probably drunk or homeless) relieved themselves in my entry way and it still smells like urine.

In the end, this is what I wrote:

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly, Gail.

I’ll just pay the fine. I certainly don’t want to get into any serious trouble over this.

And then, since I just couldn’t help myself, I added:

 

By the by, would your office take reports for complaints about garbage being left on the street? It does seem to be a problem around here. If so, I took a few pictures while I was walking my dog this evening and would like to report Lothian Road, Home Street and Tarvit Street  as areas in need of enforcement. Unfortunately, there were no address labels on the sofa or cushions. Thanks again for your help.

Have a good day.

Erin

I attached the below pictures:2014-02-03 17.21.30 2014-02-03 17.23.56 2014-02-03 17.24.07 2014-02-03 17.27.23 2014-02-03 18.06.31 2014-02-03 18.08.47 2014-02-03 18.09.00

I received an automated response.

 from: mailsweeper@edinburgh.gov.uk

to: me

It is Council policy to check emails for:
– large attachments
– pictures that may be inappropriate for business use
– content that may indicate unsolicited mail
– video files

You attempted to send an email on Tue, 4 Feb 2014 18:37:00 +0000 to:
REDACTED
that may fall into one or more of these categories and it has been stopped.

The email will be stored in the system for 15 days and can be released if authorised; thereafter it will be deleted.
Please contact the intended recipient by email to ask them to arrange its release and specify when you sent the email and what the nature of it is.

Thank you
{C015a – qfs14IboJn023774}

Sigh. I’m just going to pour another glass of wine and figure out how I can get my 50 quid back in the form of free health care. Maybe I’ll ask for a dental cleaning and two pap smears next month.
And I was serious about the burning my address labels on the stovetop. Or at least ripping them into tiny pieces and mixing them into the cat litter before I throw them away.

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About ermodi

i like champagne and nachos. i watch people’s mouths move when they talk to me and judge if they are a good kisser i like to write with fine-tip Sharpies because i think it makes me look confident i bite my nails i think doing the dishes is a very lonely chore i think “autumn” is the prettiest word in the English language. i believe in love – or, at least something that resembles love, but i don’t trust this idea of forever.
This entry was posted in Advice of the Solicited and Un Kind, Apartment Living, Edinburgh, Vet School and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to I Have To Pay 50 Pounds So I Don’t Get Deported

  1. Catherine Dixon says:

    I can’t believe this! Flytipping? And no way to appeal. Very interesting article. I think I would have needed more wine.

  2. Karin says:

    I chuckled more than a hyena battling for a meal while reading this post.

  3. Tara Fuller says:

    dude… go back to your old place and just take ALL THE TRASH OUT. and scatter it. do it for karma.

  4. Hi Erin:
    Wow!
    Can’t believe there is no appeals process in this. You seem to have laid out some perfect explanations for how this could have happened. Sorry you got mixed up in this.
    Horrible.
    Horrible.
    Horrible.

    Chris

  5. ermodi says:

    Thanks for your comments everyone! My fine is paid in full and I fully intend to write a strongly worded letter of complaint…TO THE QUEEN!

  6. Pingback: It Just Gets Different | Singletonista

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