Tackling Britain’s dirty secret: waste crime
In this Regulatory update, Head of Regulatory and environmental law specialist, Kathryn Gilbertson, discusses what waste crime is and shares details of a substantial fine for a waste crime offender following a recent prosecution by the Environment Agency.
What is waste crime?
Waste crime is a real problem for the UK. It causes significant environmental and public health problems, especially for local communities. Examples of waste crime include:
— Fly-tipping and/or dumping hazardous materials on private land;
— Illegal waste sites processing thousands of tonnes of waste; and
— Seemingly legitimate operators misclassifying/falsely labelling waste in order to evade a landfill tax bill.
Serious and organised waste crime is estimated to cost the UK economy at least £600 million a year. Often the perpetrators of waste crime are also involved in other serious criminal activity such as large scale fraud and modern slavery.
The Joint Unit for Waste Crime
Last January, the Government announced a new taskforce to tackle serious and organised crime in the waste sector, the Joint Unit for Waste Crime (“JUWC”). The JUWC brought together law enforcement agencies, environmental regulators, HMRC and the National Crime Agency in the war against waste crime.
Since its implementation and despite the coronavirus pandemic, the JUWC has reported a successful first year and remains committed to tackling those engaged in serious and organised waste crime.
The potential consequences of waste crime for offenders
On 22 December at Worcester Crown Court, Judge Nicholas Cole ordered John Bruce of Tilesford Park Pershore to pay £2,101,708 within 3 months (using a confiscation order) in a case brought by the Environment Agency under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. If Bruce fails to pay then, he will face jail for 7 years.
Bruce had operated an illegal waste site at Ridgeway Park Farm Throckmorton Airfield near Pershore in Worcestershire between 2011 and 2014. This included waste being dumped, buried or burned at the farm. The judge also determined that Bruce used a bank account operated by a proxy company to hide his ongoing unlawful activity and that a Trust set up by the defendant was a sham. Bruce was described as a “dedicated career criminal”.
This is one of the biggest confiscation orders the Environment Agency has gained and shows how seriously they and the JUWC are taking this issue. Handling, storing and classifying waste requires detailed knowledge of the law and appropriate compliance systems. Do get in touch if you need guidance.
Partner and Head of Regulatory, Kathryn Gilbertson, specialises in environmental law and has advised businesses who have inadvertently committed waste crimes without realising. It is imperative for businesses to understand what they can and cannot do with regard to waste, so a route map of the law can help as well as compliance and risk strategies. If you would like to discuss in more detail, please contact Kathryn.Back to Legal Updates →