Exhibit A, m'lud. Pic: Waferboard.

When is an orange peel a banana skin? When a council tries to fine someone for accidentally dropping it, the case goes to court and the council loses, leaving taxpayers with a bill that could run to £8,000.

Luke Gutteridge dropped a piece of peel about the size of a 10 pence piece, which was pointed out by a warden working for Broxbourne Borough Council. Mr Gutteridge said he immediately apologised, retrieved it and put it in the bin.

A few days later, however, he received a £75 fixed penalty notice for littering through the post. The notice said he "did drop, leave and walk away from the orange peel", the BBC reports.

"There was no appeal process; it was either pay or go to court," said Mr Gutteridge.

A nine-month battle ensued, which ended when Stevenage magistrates dismissed the case.

Defra guidance on issuing littering fines says there must be evidence of intent.

Solicitor Dr Michael Ramsden, who acted on behalf of Mr Gutteridge, said: "We pointed out as there was no intent... the appeal should succeed and that would be a saving to the public purse."

He told the BBC that he understands the council spent around £4,000 fighting the case, having brought in external solicitors. The council will not cover Mr Gutteridge's costs.

"These, sadly, will come out of the public purse," Dr Ramsden said.

The council said "lessons would be learnt".

Cllr Tim Hutchins, Broxbourne's cabinet member for environmental protection, said: "Clearly we thought we had sufficient evidence to bring this case.

"The costs were not awarded against us and I think that's a fair indication the court believed the case had been properly brought."