LITTER louts as young as 10 can now be fined £80 if they drop rubbish in an Oxford street or park – and their parents could end up in court.

Oxford City Council’s executive board has sanctioned new powers to take the tough line with youngsters as part of its ongoing war on litter.

But opponents said they are horrified by the measures.

John Tanner, the council's executive member for a cleaner Oxford, said: “At the moment anybody under 18 cannot receive an on-the-spot fine, but we know from experience some of the biggest litter droppers are under 18.

“This is another piece in the jigsaw of getting our streets clean. It is not heavy handed.

“If they don’t pay the parents will be taken to court.”

The new powers allow council enforcement teams to warn children caught littering and ask them to pick up the rubbish they have dropped.

If the youngster refuses and shows no remorse then their details will be passed to Thames Valley Police.

The police could then write to parents, or in persistent cases issue a £80 fine.

But Mr Tanner said the policy would not be used against foreign language students, who had blighted city parks with litter during late night parties, because they would have returned home before a fine could be enforced.

He added: “If they see our young people being dealt with by enforcement officers that will have an effect.”

Council chief executive Peter Sloman said: “Officers involved really believe having this will be another weapon in their armoury.”

The council began a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to litter in November 2009 and enforcement officers have issued 449 fines to date, raising £26,485.

But a number of fines, issued as part of the council’s ‘Cleaner, Greener’ campaign, were torn up after it was discovered they had been given to children.

The Liberal Democrat leader on the council, Stephen Brown, said he was “horrified” by the scheme.

He added: “You are criminalising 10-year-olds. What if a child does not have a pro-active parent or guardian?”

The experience of officers on the Leys was one of the factors in adopting the powers. Police said the youngest person to be handed a fixed penalty notice in Oxford, for a traffic offence on Botley Road in May, was aged 16.