Unauthorised advertisers in contempt

Posted: 28th December 2012

Unauthorised advertisers who failed to remove cigarette bins from the streets of Westminster prior to a deadline set by a High Court injunction have been fined for contempt. Arguments that it had been physically impossible to obey the order within the required time limit were rejected by the court which found that very much more could have been done to achieve compliance.

A leading mini cab and vehicle rental company and one of its subsidiaries had been successfully prosecuted by the local planning authority after attaching approximately 3,000 advertisement-bearing cigarette bins to buildings within the City of Westminster without the consent required by Town and Country (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007.

CigarettebinHowever, not a single bin was taken down prior to June 15 2012 when the Lord Mayor and Citizens of the City of Westminster obtained a High Court injunction requiring their removal within a 14-day time limit. When that deadline was not met, the council launched contempt proceedings.

It was argued by the defendants, who had provided the bins at their own cost and considered them to be of significant benefit to the public, that any failure to comply with the injunction was unintentional, that compliance within the deadline was in any event physically impossible and that the contempt proceedings were a disproportionate abuse of process.

But the court found that the defendants had numerous staff who could have been employed in the task of removing the bins and that substantial compliance with the order would have been possible had the matter been treated with greater urgency. The two companies were each fined £2,000 for contempt and the managing director and founder of one of them was fined £1,000.