Community order for man running illegal scrap vehicle site

A court has sentenced a Northumberland-based man to a community order for running an illegal waste site during lockdown which the Environment Agency said “made his neighbours’ lives a misery”.

The site was hit by 'regular fires' with scrap cars 'dumped' at the site

A statement from the Agency yesterday (14 February) explained that Matthew Andrew Leiper, 44, cleared land he owned south of Berwick-Upon-Tweed before dumping scrap vehicles and waste and lighting bonfires, with the smell of smoke “filling nearby homes” between March and July 2020.

The Agency added that Mr Leiper was found guilty on 11 October following an eight day trial at Newcastle crown court of operating a waste site without an environmental permit and burning waste in a way likely to cause pollution to the environmental or harm to human health.

He was sentenced yesterday to a community order to carry out 260 hours of unpaid work, with no further mention of fines or court costs.

In the statement, the Agency explained that when sentencing Mr Leiper, Recorder Herrmann ruled he had acted deliberately in the offence regarding waste fires and accepted the impact on residents had been significant. The court heard evidence about Leiper’s deteriorating mental health which may have impacted on his decision-making in 2020.


The Agency outlined that evidence from neighbours described how in February 2020, they noticed Mr Leiper’s land, which had previously been full of mature trees and hedgerows, had been cleared.

The regulator added that the neighbours saw fires “burning most days”, and despite keeping windows and doors closed, smoke still filled their homes. They also saw scrap vehicles at the site.

One neighbour described a fire in March 2020 which burned for several days. She developed a cough which affected her sleep. She also described the distress caused to an already unwell family member, the statement added.

The EA said that neighbours reported ‘regular fires’ at the site


In March 2020, Environment Agency officers visited the site and saw scrap vehicles and the remains of a bonfire with mattress springs, metal and plastic waste. Mr Leiper “was told that he was operating an illegal waste site and to stop operating”.

Despite being told to cease activity, the EA said,  in a follow up visit from Environment Agency officers in June 2020 “they saw a pile of smouldering mixed waste measuring 8ft by 15ft, and a separate unlit bonfire containing broken pallets and plastic”.


Gary Wallace, Environment Agency area environment manager in the North East, said: “Our priority is the protection of people and the environment and Leiper’s offending caused misery for the community, clearly impacting on their health and well-being and causing pollution to the local area.

“Our officers have worked hard to bring this case to court and the investigation demonstrates that we will not tolerate illegal waste activity.

“I’d like to thank the community who gave vital evidence in court and who have supported us throughout this investigation to ensure Leiper was brought to justice for his crimes.”

Share this article with others

Subscribe for free

Subscribe to receive our newsletters and to leave comments.

Back to top

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest waste and recycling news straight to your inbox.