Councils have no power to publicly shame litter louts
LITTER louts who leave rubbish on beaches cannot be "named and shamed" because of data protection laws, councils have been told.
Beaches have been struggling to cope with mounting levels of litter, especially during the recent hot spell.
But a Joint Policing Committee heard that the Department of the Environment has told local authorities that naming and shaming of litter offenders cannot take place because of data protection rules.
Clare County Manager Tom Coughlan confirmed naming and shaming offenders was not an option for the council.
A circular from the department noted that Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes had advised that publishing the names and addresses of individuals fined or convicted as a result of littering, whether on local authority websites or in the local press, was in breach of the principles of data protection, he said.
Many councils used to name and shame offenders by publishing lists of people hit with litter fines through illegal dumping, but the practice has been discontinued.
There is frustration among many local councillors that local authorities are powerless to identify offenders, despite them causing widespread damage.
At the meeting in Ennis yesterday, Senator Martin Conway (FG) called for what he described as the 'litter vandals' to be named and shamed.
"Litter fines should be increased, but if somebody is caught more than once littering, there should be a name-and-shame policy," he said.
The call for new rules follows a motion passed by South Dublin County Council in May for increased powers.
Councillors heard that some 1,165 fines were issued last year, a 63pc increase on 2011.
The motion called on Environment Minister Phil Hogan to support the council by liaising with the Data Protection Commissioner and, "if necessary, seek amendments to the Data Protection Act to allow the naming and shaming of those engaged in such practices".