Litter lottery revealed as Belfast takes 150 louts to court, other councils none
A campaign group has called for an end to the lottery of punishments for littering across Northern Ireland.
Action against litter louts varies widely, with offenders in places such as Belfast, Armagh and Portadown facing court action and penalties, but those in Londonderry, Newry and Newcastle getting off scot-free.
Tidy NI called for enforcement of litter laws by councils to be applied "equitably".
Their call came after figures showed that while 12,300 on-the-spot fines had been issued across the region over the past three years, some councils had taken no prosecutions.
Overall, almost 150 people were brought to court for littering offences last year.
According to Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, a total of 145 people were prosecuted, up from 105 the previous year and 106 the year before that.
Belfast is top of the litter league, taking up more than half of the total number of prosecutions, with the new council area of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC) just behind.
Statistics showed there were 59 litter prosecutions in the capital city and 55 in the ABC local authority.
Next was Fermanagh and Omagh council with 11, then Antrim and Newtownabbey and Lisburn and Castlereagh with six apiece.
There were just two prosecutions in areas including Ballymena, Limavady, Mid Ulster and Ards, which is combined with North Down.
No one was prosecuted in the Derry City and Strabane and Newry, Mourne and Down councils.
Mr Durkan said: "Councils also deal with litter offenders by issuing fixed penalty notices as an alternative to seeking prosecution through the courts.
"Over the past three financial years, 12,338 fixed penalty notices were issued by councils for littering offences."
The second year of results follows the implementation of the Clean Neighbourhoods Act.
Among the court cases in Belfast, one Pilot Street woman was fined £75 for dropping litter from her vehicle in the city centre, along with £75 in costs.
Two people from Amcomri Street and Glencairn Pass were each fined £75 for dropping litter in the city centre, and ordered to pay £69 in costs.
Another Amcomri Street resident was also fined £75 for not providing information about the illegal dumping of household waste outside her property, and ordered to pay £69 in costs.
In the first year of the implementation of the Act, the chances of offenders being caught again varied widely - in five council areas only a single prosecution was taken.
Ards Borough Council issued just three fixed penalty notices, while Ballymoney, Dungannon and South Tyrone and Limavady issued just four apiece.
Councils can now hand out more on-the-spot fines, while nuisance parking, graffiti and fly-posting can attract an £80 fine.
Insisting it would work with local government, Tidy NI said: "Only a minority of people litter or let their dogs foul our streets, but unfortunately it is still a sizeable minority, with street cleansing costing ratepayers £38m annually.
"This must become as unacceptable as it is to smoke in buildings or drive when drinking."