COUNCIL officers have been forced to intervene after an overzealous enforcement agent handed out a £60 fine for “littering” to a Wirral man after a bookmark fell out of his book as he left work in Birkenhead.

David Ellis, from Liscard, had just finished his shift at Faiveley Transport on Thursday afternoon when he was handed the fine following what he says was a “genuine accident”.

The 62-year-old told the Globe he was “infuriated” when he was slapped with the penalty notice after being unaware he had dropped the bookmark until he was approached by the litter enforcement officer from Kingdom Ltd – hired by Wirral Council as part of their “zero-tolerance” crackdown on litter louts.

After David complained to the Globe and was backed by dozens of readers, Wirral Council has quashed the fine, stating the enforcement agent should have used her “discretion”.

Recalling the incident, David said: “It was a windy day and I was on my way out of work and had my book in my hands – the bookmark just dropped out.

“This lady came up to me and said ‘Do you know you’ve just thrown something on the floor?’ I said I hadn’t thrown anything and then she pointed to the bookmark.

“I said ‘I didn’t throw it, I just dropped it’ I didn’t even see it. She then told me I’d broken an Environmental Act and I’d committed an offence and gave me the fixed penalty notice of £60.”

David said he was “infuriated” to receive the fine which oddly states it was issued for a dropped cigarette end.

“I don’t even smoke. That’s the laughable thing. Apart from the pantomime of what happened, when I checked the fine and saw what it say – it’s just nonsense.”

David added: “I told her I didn’t deliberately drop the bookmark on the floor. I’d already put my stuff in the car, including the book, when she came up to me.

“If she’d have said ‘You’ve dropped that’ I would have said that I needed it because I do to mark my book – they’re just looking for an easy target.”

David lodged an objection against the fine and refused to pay it.

Just hours after covering his story, the Globe was informed the ticket would be quashed.

A spokesman for Wirral Council said: “Enforcement officers carry body-worn cameras which allow all cases to be accurately reviewed. In this instance, having received an appeal and reviewed the evidence, we concluded that there was a genuine element of doubt that Mr Ellis had deliberately dropped this item or was even aware that he had done.

“In circumstances such as this, enforcement officers are encouraged to use their discretion when deciding if a fixed penalty notice is appropriate. We regret that on this occasion that discretion was not exercised at the time of issue, but we are happy to put this right now having fully reviewed the circumstances. We have informed Mr Ellis of our decision and cancelled the fixed penalty notice he was issued with.”

David said he was delighted to have the fine cancelled but said it did not take away from what had happened.

“I’ve had a half-hearted apology from the council. It caused my wife a lot of stress and me a lot of stress for a while. Thanks so much to the Globe for your help.”

Littering fines handed out in Wirral topped £281,000 in the first three months of the crackdown.

The local authority hired Kingdom Ltd to patrol the borough - with staff using body cameras to gather evidence.

More than 4,700 penalty notices have been given out so far.

The drive began on July 1 and figures show 4,713 penalties had been issued up to November 6 – a huge increase on the total of 90 littering fines issued over five years from 2010.