Man spends 18 hours in police cell and has his DNA taken for 'dropping an apple core'
By JAMES TOZER
He only popped out to run a couple of errands for his disabled wife.
But Keith Hirst ended up spending the night in a police cell after being accused of dropping an apple core.
Despite strenuously denying the allegation, the former plumber, who has a heart condition, was taken into custody by up to five uniformed officers and had his DNA and fingerprints taken.
By then his worried family were calling hospitals, fearing he had been in an accident.
It wasn't until nearly 11pm that he was able to ring them and explain what had happened.
He was finally released after 18 hours behind bars.
Mr Hirst, 54, said yesterday he would fight to clear his name in a case which could leave him with a criminal record and cost taxpayers thousands of pounds.
"The way I was treated you would have thought I had robbed a bank," he said.
"My family are law-abiding people and I would help if I saw a gang of yobs attacking a police officer.
"This kind of incident does not help in improving relations between the community and police."
Mr Hirst had just come out of a post office near his home in Swinton, Greater Manchester, and was heading for the chemists to collect his wife's prescription when a community support officer accused him of littering.
He said the officer wanted to issue him with a £50 on-the-spot fine for littering.
"There was a chap there in a fluorescent jacket, big sunglasses, and a baseball cap, on a bike, with a wad of tickets and a pen. He said, 'Why did you drop that apple core?' and I told him I didn't drop an apple core.
"He then said he wanted my name and address. He was an over-zealous young lad, baying to give me a ticket.
"I told him I was on my way to the shops but would be walking back that way if he wanted to speak to me later."
Mr Hirst says that when he emerged from the chemists he claimed he was surrounded by five uniformed officers.
"I said I had done nothing wrong and so was not telling them who I was," he said.
He was taken to the police station, where his belongings were taken and his DNA and finger-prints recorded before being locked in the cells overnight.
He twice had to be seen by a doctor after complaining of dizziness and chest pains.
After being charged with littering and obstructing a police officer, the following morning he was handcuffed to a security guard to appear before local magistrates.
His wife, whose disability is due to a back problem, said: "The first I knew about it was when Keith called at 10.45pm.
"He'd gone to the Post Office at lunchtime. We did not know where he was and my daughter had been ringing hospitals. The whole case is ridiculous."
A police source claimed Mr Hirst had flung the apple core across the road, almost hitting someone.
The source added that Mr Hirst refused to give his details to a single officer called in by the PCSO as back-up after he behaved rudely and aggressively. This officer requested two more officers to arrest him.
If he had provided his address he would have been released from custody, the source added.
The obstruction charge was subsequently dropped but Mr Hirst is due to face trial before a district judge for the alleged littering offence last month.
He could face a £2,500 fine or up to six months in prison.
Superintendent Ian Palmer, of Greater Manchester Police, said: "Littering is an offence. We work tirelessly to ensure the streets are not only safe but also clean."
Earlier this year, the Daily Mail told how Kate Badger, 25, from Wolverhampton, was taken to court after being accused of throwing an apple core from her car.
The case, which dragged on for a year at a cost of at least £2,800, was later dropped.
Last month, Sarah Davies, 20, was fined £75 after dropping a piece of sausage roll she was feeding to her four-year-old daughter in Hull.
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