A NON-SMOKER wrongly accused of throwing a cigarette out of her car window says she was "humiliated" after enforcement officers made her feel "like a criminal".
Angela Bellas was led on a "walk of shame" from Morrisons in Canterbury, Kent after officers from private firm National Enforcement Solutions (NEF) approached her in an aisle.
The 46-year-old had popped into the supermarket on her way to work at Canterbury Academy when she was approached by a man and woman who told her to come outside.
"I just panicked," she told Kent Online.
"It was very surreal.
"I didn't know who they were. At first I thought they were police officers, and I was thinking, 'What have I done?'
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"They were walking out and kept turning around to make sure I was with them."
Once outside, the pair demanded to know why she'd thrown a cigarette from her car window.
But Mrs Bellas doesn't smoke – and said their questions made her feel like she was "being arrested".
Adding insult to injury, groups of students from her school had stopped off at Morrisons on their way in.
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"They were all gobsmacked," Mrs Bellas said.
"It was really, really humiliating."
She asked the officers to look around her car and even smell her clothing to prove she wasn't a smoker.
Eventually, the pair admitted they'd made an error, but offered no apology.
"It was awful – absolutely awful," she said.
'WALK OF SHAME'
"It was like a walk of shame until I got outside, and then they accused me of something I didn't do. It was absolutely bizarre, and there was no apology.
"It was really, really intimidating, very embarrassing, and it actually really shook me up. I was scared, but [imagine] if it had happened to somebody vulnerable."
NES officers are employed by Canterbury City Council (CCC) to help clamp down on littering across Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable.
Since May 3, wardens have been able to hand out £150 fines to those litterbugs and those who don't clean up dog mess.
NES receives 70 per cent of all revenue it generates through fines, with the remaining 30 per cent going to the city council.
It was really, really intimidating, very embarrassing, and it actually really shook me up
In a joint statement, NES and CCC told the paper: "After review of the officers' body-worn camera the interaction of the officer was professional and not 'demeaning, aggressive and disrespectful'.
"The officer approached the member of the public and asked them to come outside; this was to avoid embarrassment.
"After the officer questioned the member of the public about a potential offence taking place the officer was satisfied with the response and no fixed penalty notice was issued.
"NES apologises if the member of the public felt upset at any time.
"This is not what we set out to achieve and we will work with all officers on this contract to minimise the risk of a repeated incident.
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"As part of the contract NES are expected to engage with the public and not just for people committing offences. NES sets a high standard as this particular role often is highly criticised."
They said enforcement officers were allowed to operate in Morrisons "as a supermarket is a public place".
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