Harsher penalty for litterbugs rejected

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2004, 12:00am

Legislators yesterday rejected as too harsh a plan to impose a community service order on repeat litterbugs as an alternative to fines.

The fixed penalty for littering was increased from $600 to $1,500 in June last year amid a cleanliness campaign after the Sars outbreak.

Deputy Health, Welfare and Food Secretary Eddy Chan Yuk-tak said some legislators had suggested in March that if the fine were increased, some people may not be able to afford it.

'Therefore a community service order may be imposed in addition to the fine to deter repeat offenders,' he told the Legco health services panel yesterday.

But Democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said he did not think repeat offenders warranted a community service order, which was tougher than a fine.

'Those who run a red light are fined $450, which is very low,' he said. 'So the penalty for life-or-death situations is not commensurate with a penalty for environmental hygiene offences.'

Repeat offenders comprised just 1.7 per cent of littering offenders, he said.

Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong legislator Tam Yiu-chung said higher fines did not seem to have a deterrent effect.

About 32,000 fixed-penalty notices were issued between June last year and September this year, compared with 26,000 issued the previous year before the fine was raised, according to government figures.

Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene Gregory Leung Wing-lap said the increase in the number of offenders was because the government 'adopted a zero tolerance approach'.

Of the 32,000 offenders, 555 were repeat offenders. These comprised 497 who committed offences twice and 58 three times or more.

Some 85 per cent of first-time offences were for littering and 12 per cent spitting. Of two-time offenders, 64 per cent were litterbugs while 72 per cent of three-time offenders were caught illegally posting bills.