When Luke Gutteridge accidentally dropped a tiny piece of orange peel as he threw it in the bin, he swiftly picked it up again and would have been forgiven for expecting to think nothing more about it.
Little did he realise that the offending behaviour would result in a nine-month legal battle costing the tax payer an estimated £8,000.
Mr Gutteridge, 29, was spotted dropping the peel by an overzealous enforcement officer who wasted no time in admonishing him.
He immediately apologised and picked up the stray piece of peel, putting it in the bin.
But it was too late. He was accused of littering and handed a £75 fine.
Mr Gutteridge’s protestations were in vain. The council worker refused to cancel the fine, warning that if he did not pay up he would be taken to court.
Furious at the perceived injustice, the former salesman, vowed to clear his name. He fought the case, and won.
Magistrates in Stevenage, Herts accepted his defence that littering was an offence only if there was proof that it was intentional.
Having lost the case, Broxbourne Borough Council must pay its own legal fees of an estimated £4,000.