‘Bullying’ council slammed for disabled mum’s bin fine

Neill Cooper with the letter sent to mum Elizabeth
Neill Cooper with the letter sent to mum Elizabeth
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THE son of a disabled pensioner has hit out at the city council for being heavy-handed after his mother was given a littering fine over a dropped prescription box.

Grandmother-of-two Elizabeth Cooper, 69, received a fixed penalty notice for £50 after a prescription box with her name and address on it was discovered by a bin outside her home in Wester Hailes.

A letter from the council warned that if she did not pay the £50, it could lead to a fine of up to £40,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years.

Mrs Cooper’s son, Neill, insists the box was dropped accidentally, either from her handbag or as a result of it falling out of one of the communal bins outside her flat, which he claimed are “constantly 
overflowing”.

The council, however, said the prescription box was found inside a green refuse sack outside the bin store and insisted the communal bins were not overflowing at the time.

Mrs Cooper, who has been registered disabled since undergoing an arterial bypass on her leg in 2004, instructed her sister to pay the fine.

Mr Cooper didn’t know anything about the fine or the letter until around three weeks ago when he came across them both at his mother’s flat.

He said he was “very angry” and “flabbergasted” at the strong wording of the “threatening” letter.

The 46-year-old, who lives in the New Town, said: “Given this wording and without telling me, she felt bullied and compelled to pay the fine.

“My mother is an extremely conscientious taxpayer and has never had so much as a parking ticket in all her 49 years of driving. She detests litter and it is abhorrent that the council decide to treat a 69-year-old very infirm lady in this way.

“I think there’s been no understanding on their part and I think the council has been very overzealous. The right thing to do was to go to her door and ask her to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“I find it astounding that they want to fine a 69-year-old woman for accidentally dropping a prescription box. I know she would never deliberately drop litter.”

He added: “The letter also stated ‘at the time of inspection, environmental wardens found that the bins had sufficient space for the waste to be placed in the bin and not on the public highway’. Being a regular visitor, I can confirm that the bins are constantly overflowing due to the frequency with which the council empties them.”

Mr Cooper said his mother, who uses a walking stick, takes a significant amount of medication each day for a number of ailments.

The council has since agreed to review the case.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, said: “Keeping the city clean and safe and reducing littering are major priorities for residents, and the council will continue to have a robust approach to dealing with litter and those who cause it. However, we understand that these are special circumstances and will sympathetically review the case.”