Chronic litterers, spitters may face wrath of the courts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 October, 2003, 12:00am

Bureau recommends stricter penalties after 382 offenders fail to get message

If a $1,500 fine is not enough to deter litterers and spitters, the government is hoping stiffer penalties, including community service, will.

The Health, Welfare and Food Bureau is recommending that people caught littering, spitting, posting bills or allowing their dogs to foul in public twice within two years be given a court summons instead of a fixed-penalty notice.

They would then have to attend court, where a magistrate would decide on the fine and whether to issue a community service order.

The bureau began a one-month public consultation on the proposal yesterday. It has printed hundreds of thousands of pamphlets listing its recommendations. After the consultation period, the proposal is likely to be put to the Legislative Council late next year.

A bureau spokesman said officials had considered other penalties, such as publishing the names of offenders, imprisonment or making them criminal offences. But it decided a community service order would be most appropriate.

Yuen Kwok-yung, chairman of the Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene, said publishing offenders' names could affect others with the same name and raised privacy concerns.

Under the fixed-penalty scheme, offenders are fined $1,500 if they are caught committing any of the four offences. The penalty was raised from $600 in June, following the Sars outbreak. Since fixed penalties for the four offences were introduced in May last year, 382 of the 26,100 offenders have offended again. Most of these were caught posting bills.

Separately, the bureau has also proposed stricter enforcement action against food premises with unauthorised structures - typically in alleyways. These include water tanks and fans, which a bureau spokesman said might produce dripping water and spew warm air that spread germs.

The bureau proposes that violators remove the structures before operating licences are renewed.

The bureau also is proposing tougher rules for holders of provisional food business licences. Hygiene violation points accrued while the business is operating under the six-month provisional licence would be carried over. Licensees now are able to start afresh with a blank page once they get permanent licences.