Agency chair gives jail warning to ‘company bosses’

The chair of the Environment Agency today (18 January) made the case for increases in the charges it levies and jail sentences for “bosses” involved in “reckless” pollution.

The Agency chair would like to see more waste criminals jailed in the future (picture: Shutterstock)

Intent

Agency chair, Sir James Bevan gave a stern warning over breaches of regulations, saying that “not every operator has good intent” and that his future model of regulation would see more waste criminals being put “behind bars”.

Referring to the wider environmental spectrum, including water, air and waste, Sir James declared that he would like to see “much tougher punishment for the biggest and worst polluters”.

Repeating the message that offenders could be jailed, he said: “For extremely harmful and reckless pollution – and we’ve seen far too much of that in the last few years – that would include fines so large they would put a major dent in companies’ bottom lines and sentences that would put their bosses in jail. That would greatly concentrate the minds of Boards and Chief Executives and have a powerful deterrent effect.”

Waste

He devoted part of his speech to waste crime and claimed that the government is doing something about tackling it with additional support for the Agency. Sir James said the government had given the Agency new powers as well as £30 million in 2018 and that the Joint Unit for Waste Crime had been created.

Agency chair Sir James Bevan, pointed to a future with tougher sentences for offenders and more income from regulated industry

He pointed to subsequent investment by the Agency, including on body cameras to gather evidence, and also highlighted the number of containers going for export which had been seized.

On waste crime, he remarked: “As a result we have made huge strides in this area. In 2020 we stopped illegal activity at 722 sites and inspected hundreds of shipping containers which prevented the illegal export of more than 11,000 tonnes of waste. Thanks to this work the courts are now seizing more assets from more criminals and putting more of them behind bars.”

Finance

On finance, he said that while he was not lobbying for more money, which would include more income from government, he is having “good conversations” about increases with the government. And the future funding model he would like to see, is one where regulated industries pay the full cost of their regulation.

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