A BARBER who counts North-East footballers among his customers has had to shell out £240 after he put joke signs on drain covers saying Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now hiring, inquire within.

Newcastle City Council did not see the funny side of Patrick Forster's attempt to raise a smile at the weekend, and an environmental health officer visited his shop and handed him a fixed penalty notice for littering.

The 31-year-old, whose city centre shop is used by Newcastle United and Sunderland footballers and the cast of Geordie Shore, said his joke was not advertising and was just meant to make people laugh.

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Mr Forster said: "When I opened the shop 18 months ago, I didnt advertise in the window, I put up funny signs to make people laugh.

"After a while I stopped because I had a business to run, but people kept asking me to do more.

"I had the idea about the turtles and I just thought it was funny so I waited until the weather was nice and Saturday was the perfect opportunity."

He put one sign on a grid outside his shop and it proved popular.

"I had hundreds of people taking pictures," he said.

"He put two more up in nearby streets and shortly after was phoned by the council and an officer was sent round to fine him after telling him what he had done was illegal."

Customers have now backed him on Twitter, using the hashtag 'Turtlegate' and well-wishers have sent him pictures on Facebook of themselves dressed as turtles.

He said: "I was just trying to make people laugh. I think the council could have had a bit of common sense and shown a sense of humour."

A city council spokesman said: "Although we can see the lighter side of this, fly posting is still illegal. It spoils the appearance of our city and is unfair to the businesses who are properly licensed to advertise. Fly posting can be dealt with through the courts, however this was a minor offence which we were able to deal (with) by fixed penalty notice."