Non smoker chased by bailiffs over dropping cig in town she's never been to

A woman has spoken of her outrage and embarrassment after a bailiff turned up on her doorstep demanding money.
Cigarette buttsCigarette butts
Cigarette butts

Emma Caresimo was at home with her young son on Friday afternoon when a bailiff knocked on the door and demanded she pay £650 or they would take her car due to an unpaid fine for dropping a cigarette in Wigan last February.

But Emma, who lives in Magor in Wales, has said she has never been to Wigan and doesn’t even smoke.

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She believes the true offender must have given the Wigan Council enforcement officer her name and date of birth but a different address as she has received no prior warnings about the fine.

She said: “It has been the worst weekend of my life. When the bailiff turned up I just couldn’t believe it.

“I called the police and an officer came down but he said they were legitimate court papers and there was nothing he could do. He advised me to pay him and try and get the money back later.

“They had clamped my car and said they would take it away and sell it if I didn’t pay the £650. I had no choice but to pay.

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“It was so embarrassing. I live in a small village and people saw there was something going on. I’ve had people coming up and asking me what was going on.”

Emma has since spoken to the court that issued the papers and has been told the whole thing has been due to an admin error although they could not tell her if it was theirs or Wigan Council’s fault.

But Wigan Council has said that it was not at fault.

Paul Barton, assistant director of operational services, said: “Following an unpaid fixed penalty notice last year we issued court proceedings to an Emma Smith with a Liverpool address.

“We prosecuted under this Liverpool address and have never issued any proceedings to a Welsh address or instructed any court or bailiff to visit a Welsh property.”

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Emma explained that Smith is her maiden name and although she has been told she will be able to claim back the money, she is still angry no one will take responsibilty.

“It sounds like I should be able to claim the money back but I have to apply in writing and wait for the bailiffs to hand it over to the court,” she said.

“I don’t see why I should have to be the one to go through all of this when it is their fault. I haven’t been able to speak to anyone all weekend and I have been so worried about it.

“And it isn’t just the money either - it is a criminal offence. If I had done it I would have paid up straight away but it is ridiculous it has gone this far when I didn’t do it in the first place.”

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Emma is also upset that the bailiff was filming the entire encounter, including her young son.

“I’ve been left so shaken and stressed by the whole thing and now it is on me to sort it out and I’ve not been offered any compensation or anything,” she said.

“It seems outrageous that no one is taking responsibility for this.”

An HM Courts & Tribunals Service spokesperson said: “As a result of human error HMCTS wrongly took enforcement action against an individual with the same name and date of birth as an offender.

“We are deeply sorry for any distress caused by this regrettable incident and have arranged for the money to be refunded. We have taken steps to avoid this happening in future.”