A LANDSCAPE gardener has been handed a £500 bill after being the first person to be caught fly-tipping on covert council cameras.

Paul Thompson pleaded guilty after secret CCTV cameras recorded him dumping a truck load of garden waste.

Hartlepool Borough Council installed the cameras at known hot spots around the town after continually having to clean up after fly-tippers.

And yesterday, after Thompson was made to pay for his actions, the council vowed more prosecutions would follow.

Thompson was employed by a private landscape company, which was not named at the hearing, in July, when he discarded between two and three tonnes of soil and rubble on land at Hart Village, near Hartlepool.

Tony Macnab, prosecuting, said one of the council's Neighbourhood Action managers inspected the site on the evening of July 23 and found it had been used as a dumping ground.

After studying the hidden cameras, the council was able to watch the offence unfold and trace the white pick-up truck back to his employers, who in turn named Thompson as the driver.

"He initially denied any involvement in the offence, however, three days later he requested to be interviewed again," said Mr Macnab.

The 29-year-old, of Oakley Gardens, Hartlepool, who was not represented in court, pleaded guilty to depositing the controlled waste.

"I do deeply regret what I have done and realise the actions I did that day were wrong," he said.

"What I had planned to do was deposit the waste at a place we normally used at midday, but what I was doing took longer, so I panicked at the time."

Chairman of the bench Alan Bell fined Thompson £250 and ordered he contribute £150 towards costs, and pay the council's £117.98 clear up charges, amounting to a total of £517.98.

The magistrate said: "The fine could have been a lot higher if you had not given an early guilty plea. It could have been in the region of £400 or even higher."

A spokesman for Hartlepool council said: "This is the first successful prosecution following our recent purchase of covert cameras.

"The message to would-be fly-tippers is clear -- we are watching you."