Bedford Borough Council has eventually capitulated after seven months in its action against a dog owner accused of walking her pet off its lead through a cemetery.
In addition to ceasing their action against Lynnette Tweedale – who refused to pay a £50 fixed notice back in May, and who this week also declined to accept a Notice of Discontinuance – the authority is now also going to reimburse 44 others who were fined in respect of a flawed Dog Control Order (DCO).
Celebrity lawyer Nick Freeman, aka Mr Loophole, learned of Mrs Tweedale’s plight against the council and offered his expertise pro bono.
In was during the course of preparing this matter he discovered that not only was the signage defective, but also more significantly, that the supposed DCO failed to comply with the relevant regulations.
It was in relation to this latter point that 44 others will now have an unexpected Christmas bonus.
In addition to winning the case, Mr Freeman has now made a formal complaint to the police against Bedford Borough Council for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Mrs Tweedale is also making a formal complaint to the Council ombudsman in relation to this failed prosecution.
Bedford Borough Council chief executive Philip Simpkins said in a statement today: “It has come to light that an administrative procedural error has occurred and the Council should not have enforced payment against the 44 Fixed Penalty Notices issued in respect of Dog Control Orders.
“Accordingly, all individuals issued with Fixed Penalty Notices have been written to explaining this administrative mistake and they will be offered a full refund of their fixed penalty fine.”
Mr Freeman said: “It is imperative we know when this ‘administrative procedural error’ was first discovered by the council, and, secondly, why the prosecution sought to discontinue the case on the grounds that it was not in the interests of justice, because a payment to discharge her financial penalty had been made.
“Throughout the whole process Bedford Borough Council has behaved in a shabby fashion displaying breathtaking arrogance and treating Mrs Tweedale with utter contempt.
“Despite today’s admission, the council has still not apologised to Mrs Tweedale, but perversely has apologised unreservedly to the tax payer whose very money it has been squandering!
“At a conservative estimate I calculate this failed action by Bedford Borough Council will ultimately cost it in excess of £10,000. And quite apart from the financial aspect, the council’s credibility and integrity is in tatters. And this was all over a £50 fine!”
Mrs Tweedale was stopped last May by a council employee who informed her she was breaking the law by not having her 11-year-old miniature Schnauzer, Sasha, on its lead, as she strolled through Foster Hill Road Cemetery.
Despite telling the official there were no signs at the entrance – and taking him there to prove her point – Bedford Borough Council nevertheless sent her a £50 fixed penalty through the post.
The authority said it operated a zero tolerance policy and had no discretion in this matter. If not paid within 14 days the fine would rise to £75.