An elderly Melbourne couple fined $370 for dropping a lollipop wrapper from a car on Feb. 28 say they were wrongly smuggled in by someone with a grudge.
A complete stranger has accused Kim Tran, 74, of littering and now, with very meager evidence, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is making the Tran’s lives hell.
She and her husband Pham say the alleged evidence – a photo of a wrapper on the ground but no person visible – is nothing and that it is their accuser’s word against them.
Their daughter, also named Kim, is caring for her parents full-time and said they are unable to pay the $370 fine for the alleged litter earlier this month.
In fiscal year 2021-2022, the EPA issued more than $3.7 million in littering fines in Victoria alone.
Melbourne elderly couple Pham and Kim Tran (pictured) who were fined $370 for dropping a lollipop wrapper from a car say they were wrongly smuggled in by someone with a grudge
“I couldn’t imagine her doing it. It’s almost spotlessly clean at home,” Kim Tran said A current situation on Thursday.
Statement by EPA
We cannot talk about an individual case that is still active. Litter fines are the result of eyewitness accounts.
Anyone can report litter as a result of a vehicle violation. Once a member of the public reports an incident, the case can proceed with or without photo or video evidence.
As made very clear in the reporting process, when reporting an alleged litter violation, if the case goes to court, the EPA will require the reporter to be available to appear.
The registered owner of the reported vehicle is then given a violation and given options to challenge or dispute the violation or designate someone who may be responsible for the violation.
Those options include asking for an internal review of their case where EPA will review the case on its merits.
If the case goes to court, the alleged perpetrator and the person reporting the crime will be able to testify, giving them every opportunity to explain their case and circumstances.
The EPA website has all the information about the litter infringement process and how to appeal a litter charge.
Her parents are Vietnamese migrants who have lived in western Melbourne for 32 years.
Both have diabetes and high blood pressure exacerbated by the stress.
“It’s hard to believe, it’s hard to accept ‘that someone duped them in,'” she said.
When 82-year-old war veteran Tran received a letter accusing his passenger – his wife Kim – of throwing a car window around, he said he couldn’t believe it.
The Trans believe they are being targeted by someone with a grudge who has filed false reports with the EPA.
They do not deny that it is their car in the photo, but they do deny that it is litter.
Their daughter Kim said her parents ‘love this land and this is our home. They would never do that, they wouldn’t break any law or throw garbage’.
She helps them with the paperwork, but their only options are to pay the fine, request an internal EPA review, or go to court.
Attorney Justin Lawrence said the evidence would never hold up in court.
‘That could be a road anywhere, or a footpath, or the yard of my children’s primary school.
“There’s just no evidence that the person accused of throwing trash out of his car actually did it,” said Henderson and Ball’s attorney.
Mr. Lawrence said people can anonymously submit reports to the EPA, like the one that caused so much strife for the Trans.
People with a grudge can use the process to target another person, he said.
“I can’t imagine any court in the country being satisfied with the backs of two photographs, none of which show the defendant.”
The EPA said that if a person reports a litter, he or she must be willing to come to court as a witness to the incident.
But the consequences if the complainant does not come to court are hardly a sufficient deterrent against false reporting.
“If you refuse to testify in court, we may not accept future litter reports from you,” the EPA website says.
The Trans has until March 28 to pay or contest the $370 fine. If they do neither by the due date, $26.60 will be added to their bill and a fine reminder will be sent.
The only evidence against the Trans is a photo of a lollipop wrapper (pictured) on the floor, with no one seen next to it