A SINGLE mother-of-five was arrested and taken to court after leaving rubbish bags outside of her home.

Stacey Storey appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court charged with one count of depositing controlled waste on land without a permit.

The 31-year-old told the court her refuse bin was stolen and that she reported the theft to the police but as she was unemployed she was unable to afford a new one.

Katherine Hazell, prosecuting on behalf of Durham County Council, said a neighbourhood warden spotted the rubbish behind Bell Street, in Bishop Auckland, and told Ms Storey she needed to move it.

She said: “On February 20 a neighbourhood warden found four black bin bags filled with rubbish on Bell Street. Evidence was found which linked the rubbish to the defendant and her address.

“The warden attended the address and spoke to the defendant, who confirmed the rubbish was hers. She was told it was unacceptable to put her rubbish in the street and she was issued with a letter.”

Ms Hazell said that when the warden returned a number of weeks later more bags of rubbish had been left in the street and Ms Storey was issued with a fixed penalty notice for £400, reduced to £180 if paid within 10 days.

After failing to pay the fixed penalty notice and attend a subsequent court hearing, Ms Storey was eventually arrested on Tuesday (November 10) and taken to court.

Stephen Andrews, mitigating, said his client had no previous convictions and had never been to court before.

He said: “To put it simply, she is struggling, she is a single mother of five children who is doing her level best. Her bin was stolen, she reported it to the police and made arrangements for a relative to take her rubbish away for her in the mean time.

“The rubbish bags were tightly tied, and she was disappointed when her relative didn’t remove the rubbish as agreed.

“When she was issued with the fixed penalty notice she was in no position to pay it, and she was unable to get to court in Peterlee. She contacted the court to explain that she was having difficulties getting there.”

District Judge Roger Lowe asked Ms Hazell why Ms Storey was not given more help when she told the warden her bin had been stolen.

He was told that the onus was on Ms Storey to order a replacement bin.

Ms Storey was given a conditional discharge for 12 months.

After the hearing, Oliver Sherratt, Durham County Council’s head of environment, said: “Where possible, we will always try an education approach first as in this instance where on the first offence, a duty of care warning letter rather than a fine was issued, and the resident advised that she needed to contact the council for a new bin.

"However, it was disappointing to see more rubbish left out when we returned weeks later.

“Regrettably, we had to make the difficult decision to charge £20 to replace lost or stolen bins in April 2011 following an unprecedented reduction in government funding.”