Northampton Borough Council has begun working collaboratively through E-CINS with its local police force on a pilot scheme to enforce regulations that prevent adults from smoking in cars with children inside.
Since the introduction of the new legislation in October 2015, which made it illegal for adults to smoke tobacco products in a vehicle with children under the age of 18 present, Northamptonshire Police has made a concerted effort to raise awareness of smoke-free cars amongst drivers.
Following initial engagement, the police took a proactive approach to the legislation after a paper from senior officers recommended officers proactively look out for offenders and seek to enforce the regulations.
Northamptonshire Police recognised, however, that enforcement by the police alone was not feasible due to limitations in the fixed penalty notice issuing process. This led to a supervisor in the police Central Ticket Office contacting Northampton Borough Council’s environmental health team to discuss how the two agencies may be able to work together to help clampdown on offenders.
As a result, a new collaborative approach between the police and local authority has been put in place to improve the ticketing process and enable officers to enforce the new regulations. This will now see police officers stop vehicles where they detect primary offences, such as driving without due care and attention or driving on a defective tyre, at the same time being able to record evidence of smoking in cars with minors.
Police officers have also been encouraged to take photographic evidence of offences witnessed to help Environmental Health build a case of evidence before a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) is issued. In particular, the photograph has to demonstrate that a conventional cigarette or similar tobacco product that produces harmful smoke was being smoked, as opposed to an electronic vaping device which is not prevented under the regulations. Details of the suspected offence are then uploaded to a central anti-social behaviour police database, which is then accessed by the local authority-based officers in order to issue the FPNs.
The sharing of data between the police and council will enable the council to issue the FPNs on behalf of the police and is a new tactic that further reinforces collaborative working arrangements. Northampton Borough Council officers have been fully trained in the use of the platform and how to extract relevant information to build-up evidence before issuing a FPN.
Going forward, it is envisaged that any vehicles stopped will be instructed to do so by a police officer as part of their everyday business; however there are plans for Environmental Health Officers, Trading Standards Officers and Licensing Officers to attend special joint operations. This will not only complement the new collegiate way of working between Northampton Borough Council and Northamptonshire Police but will also provide opportunities for council officers to tackle other offences.
Julian Wilks is a Senior Environmental Health Officer at Northampton Borough Council and has been leading the authority’s input into enforcing smoke-free cars with Northamptonshire Police.
“We might be in the initial stages but it is abundantly clear already that other local authorities in Northamptonshire are very keen to get involved,” said Julian.
“Working with Northamptonshire Police has been a positive experience and the project overall has provided a really good opportunity to work with colleagues across Northamptonshire, both council and police, in order to enforce the smokefree regulations, which in-turn will help safeguard and improve public health.”
For more information contact:
Julian Wilks, Senior Environmental Health Officer, Northampton Borough Council