Enemy of the Friend of the Earth

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more stupid…

The front page of the Mail on Sunday carries the story of Britain’s first recycling martyr. Even though Michael Reeves testified that rubbish collectors could have mixed up his rubbish and that he did not commit the heinous crime of putting a piece of paper in a bag designated for other rubbish, he now has a criminal record.

Now this isn’t one of those cases where the term “criminal record” is stretched a bit. It’s really real. A spokesman for Swansea Council plainly stated: “It was dealt with in the magistrates court which means Mr Reeves now has a criminal record.” It will go on any job application and he will have to have a special entry visa if he wants to visit the United States.

To make matters worse – as if they could be – Reeves had volunteered to take part in the recycling scheme. He could have put all his rubbish in one non-recycling bag for the bin men to pick up and toss on a landfill and he would have been much better off. But this wasn’t his first bad experience with the voluntary programme. He had already been threatened with legal action because once – once – he put his rubbish out a day early because he was going on holiday the next day.

I can just see the jobsworths at Swansea Council saying, “Who does this man think he is? Does he think we are going to tolerate a misplaced piece of paper after he once set the rubbish out a day early? What does he take us for? Idiots?”

Reeves may have the first conviction for something like this, but his was not the first prosecution. In July, Donna Challice was acquitted by magistrates in a prosecution brought Exeter City Council. She was accused of putting the wrong rubbish in a recycling bin. In that case, magistrates accepted her solicitor’s argument that there were no witnesses nor was there any oher evidence that show that she was actually responsible.

Welsh magistrates aren’t so easily fooled. By golly, if the Council says he did it, he must have done it. They wouldn’t be wasting the court’s time with a frivolous case now, would they? If people are so foolish as to sign up for a voluntary scheme, they must be made to pay! Pay, I say!

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