Fixed penalty notices (FPN)

A fixed penalty notice (FPN) is an ‘on the spot’ fine for committing criminal offences such as:

  • Littering
  • Dog fouling
  • Flytipping
  • Breach of a trade waste notice (section 47)
  • Breach of public space protection orders
  • Abandoned vehicles

If you’ve been issued a fixed penalty notice, you should pay the fine within 14 days of the date shown on the notice. Failure to pay will lead to prosecution.

Pay now

Pay online now

You can also call us on 01223 457700 to pay by phone, or pay in person at our customer service centre. Alternatively you can send a cheque to: Cambridge City Council, Customer Service Centre, PO Box 700, Cambridge CB1 0JH.

Remember to quote the fixed penalty notice serial number.

A fixed penalty notice is issued instead of prosecution. If you've received an FPN there's no right of appeal.

Upon receiving a FPN there are two options available:

  • Pay the FPN within the 14 calendar days, or
  • Await the court summons (prosecution)

If you pay the FPN in full no further action will be taken. It doesn’t constitute an admission of guilt, but it does mean you avoid being prosecuted for the offence, which may lead to the court imposing a larger penalty and a criminal record.

If you wish to dispute the serving of the FPN, you’ll be required to attend court to have your case heard.

You’l need to consider:

  • contacting your local Citizens Advice Bureau for advice
  • involving the services of a solicitor
  • the evidence that may be presented in court

If the court finds against you, you may be liable to a higher fine and a criminal record. You may also have to pay the council’s costs of bringing the case to court.

All action undertaken by our Public Realm Enforcement Team is in accordance with our enforcement policy.

Frequently asked questions 

Why are fixed penalty notices issued for small scale offences such as littering and dog control breaches?

We deliver a zero tolerance approach to environmental crime and anybody who is caught committing relevant offences will be issued a fixed penalty notice. Whether under statutory law – such as the Environmental Protection Act 1990, for example littering or flytipping – or public spaces protection orders (PSPO) – for dog-exclusion areas or touting prohibions, for example – issuing an FPN seeks to change an offender’s behaviour and resolve the offence as quickly as possible without court proceedings.

I wasn't given a warning; surely it's not fair to issue an FPN?  

It's common knowledge in society today that you should not litter and organisations like the Keep Britain Tidy Group do an excellent job in helping us get the anti-littering message over to the public. We introduced the public spaces protection order for dog control to exclude and control dogs in certain locations, and there is clear signage is displayed at all sites where the orders apply. Information about the orders is also publicised on this website. Our enforcement officers undertake educational campaigns to remind people of their responsibilities and our patrols seek to target those who choose to ignore the laws and we take our enforcement duties seriously.

Do offenders have to pay the fine on the spot?

No - payments can only be made to Cambridge City Council Customer Services.

Can I pay my fine by instalments?

No, you cannot pay the fine in instalments. 

Why should I pay, if there are no signs about littering in the area where it's dropped?

We are not required to place signs in every street, road, highway or open park/space to tell people not to litter. Litter legislation has been in force for many years and public litter bins are widely available throughout the city.

I didn’t know that my dog had defecated.

There is an expectation that the person responsible for a dog or dogs is mindful at all times of where the dog(s) is and what it is doing. The law says that being unaware of the defecation or not having a device for or other suitable means of removing the faeces is not a reasonable excuse for failing to remove the faeces. Another way of saying that is that even if you didn’t know that your dog has fouled you have still committed an offence if you fail to remove it immediately (“forthwith”).

Why should I pay a Fixed Penalty Notice when there are no bins nearby?

As with signage, it's not realistic for us to place bins in every street, road or highway, although every effort is made to put bins where they are most needed and where there is the most footfall - such as in town centres and major shopping areas. If bins aren't available, it's up to everyone to act responsibly and take their litter/dog mess home or carry it until a bin is available. We also supply pocket ashtrays, poop scoops and gum wraps suitable for carrying on your person, for the safe disposal of cigarettes, dog mess and gum.

If I am caught, can I just pick the litter up at the time and escape the FPN?

The littering offence relates to the leaving of litter. Cambridge has a zero tolerance to litter. So whether or not you volunteer to pick up your litter after being approached by an officer, the officer will have evidence to show that you had already left the litter and you have committed the offence.  FPNs are usually administered immediately, although occasionally they may be served through the post after the offence has occurred.

Can’t I just put my cigarette stub in a drain?

Cigarette butts don't disappear in a drain; you are still littering the waterway. These can block drains and are harmful to waterways and wildlife. Cigarette butt litter can also pose a hazard to animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food. 

I’m not from Cambridge and I didn’t know it was an offence to drop litter; it isn’t an offence where I come from.

The Environmental Protection Act makes it an offence to drop litter in any part of the UK. Many (but not all) council areas, parishes or boroughs choose to enforce this law and it is enforced in Cambridge. Many cities, not just in the UK but throughout the world, impose penalties for dropping litter.

Other people nearby were smoking/dropping their cigarette ends/littering/dog fouling why did the officers only pick on me? I feel I was targeted.

Enforcement Officers act fairly and their actions are based on their observations. Personal information is gathered during the process of issuing a Fixed Penalty Notice and so the officers can only deal with one situation at a time.  Officers’ act impartially at all times.

Why do officers ask for my details and identification?

Under Section 88 of the Environmental Protection Act, when an Enforcement Officer observes someone committing a littering offence, they are required to issue that person with a fixed penalty notice. As part of the FPN process the officers are required to obtain that individual’s details to complete the FPN form. As it is a legal document, the officers are instructed to request identification in order to validate the person’s identity and details. The identification shown to the officers can be whatever the individual has to hand and is comfortable providing (it could be a bank card or ID badge for example), but it must show their name and details.

Am I legally obliged to give my identification?

Enforcement Officers are authorised to enforce the law. It is an offence to refuse to provide details to an authorised officer. You are legally obliged to give your correct details, but you are not legally required to provide identification. However, identification is requested to verify an individual’s identity. Failing to give your correct identity or giving another person’s name and details are also offences.

I don't believe I committed an offence.

If you believe you have not committed an offence, you have the choice of not paying the fixed penalty notice and challenging the council's evidence in court. As set out at the top of this page, you can either pay the penalty or await the court summons.

I believe that the officer was rude to me.

A complaint about the officer's conduct is not a reasonable defence and the fixed penalty notice should still be paid. If you want to make a complaint about the officer's behaviour then this should be made using our normal complaints procedure. Go to the Compliments, complaints and suggestions page.

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