Enforcement procedure

Introduction

This summary provides information about the Environmental Health Service approach to enforcement, and sets out what businesses and others can expect from our enforcement officers.

A full version of the Enforcement Procedure is available on request.

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What we do

Woking Borough Council's Environmental Health Service carries out a wide range of enforcement action under various Acts and Regulations. This procedure outlines the approach taken when considering what enforcement action is appropriate, and applies to the following services;

  • dog control and animal welfare
  • environmental control
  • food safety and communicable diseases
  • health & safety at work
  • animal and personal services licensing
  • pest control

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Our aim

To protect and improve the health, safety and welfare of local residents, visitors and people who work in the Borough of Woking.

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Enforcement procedure

Our procedure is based on the principles of fairness, proportionality and objectivity and complies with the government's 'Enforcement Concordat', which the Council signed up to in 1998. The decision to prosecute will always take account of the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the Attorney General's guidelines.

In choosing the most appropriate enforcement action, officers must have regard to the potential risk of harm and/or actual harm caused to health, the willingness of the offender to remedy the contravention, the history of the offender and the public interest. Officers must adopt a graduated approach to enforcement as set below:

Prevention and advice

The methods used to achieve this include training courses, issue of press releases, taking part in special promotions e.g. Noise Action Day, Food Safety Week, production of leaflets and other written guidance and provision of advice through direct day-to-day contact with businesses and the public.

Informal notices

Where relatively minor infringements of the law have been found, and it is not felt appropriate to take any further action a letter will be sent.

Fixed penalty notices

Fixed penalty notices will be served on individuals who are witnessed to have left dog faeces on any public open land within the authority, have dropped litter and have smoked in an enclosed public space.

Formal notices

These will be used where a serious breach of the law has been witnessed. They may be used where an informal approach has failed, or it is felt that an informal approach will have no effect, or the contravention is serious enough that a formal approach is required immediately. A timescale for compliance will be specified.

Revisits

Following service of an Informal or Formal Notice, a revisit must be made to the premises to check compliance with legal requirement(s) within the specified timescale. Compliance and non-compliance with the requirements of the Notice will be confirmed in writing. Where contraventions have not been complied with, further enforcement action may be considered.

Licences, authorisations, approvals and registrations

These may be varied, suspended or revoked or the holder prosecuted, if any conditions or legal requirements are not complied with.

Formal caution

The use of a formal caution may be considered as an alternative to prosecution and is used as a final warning and may be cited in any future legal proceedings.

Prosecution

A prosecution is usually considered as a last resort where other enforcement action has failed to remedy a legal contravention. However, there may be circumstances where due to the seriousness of the offence immediate prosecution may be necessary.

A prosecution must be taken against those responsible for the offence. This may be a company, individual or employee.

Each case will be considered individually, and the balance for and against prosecution considered in the light of the circumstances of the case. The following criteria will be considered when deciding to prosecute:-

  • the seriousness and effect of the offence
  • whether the offence, or circumstances leading to it, were foreseeable
  • the intent of the offender, e.g. is there evidence of disregard of public health for financial reward?
  • the history of the offender
  • whether there are identifiable victims
  • the willingness of the offender to prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • the probable public benefit
  • any explanation offered by the suspected offender

The final decision to prosecute rests with the Environmental Health Manager and Legal Services.

Seizure

Under various legislation it may be necessary to seize faulty, dangerous, unwholesome or contaminated goods or food, equipment responsible for causing a noise nuisance, or dangerous or straying dogs. This is to prevent them causing harm or a nuisance.

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Enforcement guarantees

A person will be informed as soon as possible when an investigation affects them.

When infringements are detected the reasons, legislation, suggested corrective action and time-scale will be given in writing.

Officers will distinguish between good practice and legal requirements.

Before taking formal action, officers will provide an opportunity to discuss the circumstances of the case, and if possible, resolve points of difference, unless immediate action is required (for example in the interests of safety or to preserve evidence).

Where there is a right of appeal against formal action, advice on the appeal mechanism will be clearly set out at the time the action is taken.

In all correspondence relating to enforcement action, the contact details of the case officer's manager will be provided, in case the customer is dissatisfied and wishes to make a complaint.

If goods or food are seized, the person from whom they have been taken will be given a written confirmation of what has been seized and the reason for seizing it.

Where there is a shared enforcement role, officers will liase with enforcement partners to maximise efficiency and minimise duplication.

Officers will have regard to relevant enforcement guidance at the time the action is taken.

Access will be provided to interpreters and translators, for those businesses or customers that do not have English as their first language.

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If you are unhappy with the Service

If you are unhappy with the service you have received, or if we have failed to live up to our promises, please write to

Environmental Health Manager
Woking Borough Council
Civic Offices
Gloucester Square
Woking
Surrey GU21 6YL

Alternatively, you can make a complaint via the Council's complaint procedure.