Judges and magistrates in England and Wales have been told to hand out tough sentences for individuals and companies committing offences such as illegal waste handling, breaches of waste permits and illegal waste export.
Sentencing guidelines were published today (February 26) by the Sentencing Council, covering offences related to the disposal and treatment of waste covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.
Judges and magistrates will be asked to apply the new guidelines when sentencing any party found guilty of a related offence in an English or Welsh court from July 1.
Publication of the guidelines follows a public consultation last year, which saw input from the waste industry, local authorities, judges and magistrates (see letsrecycle.com story). Separate guidance has been issued to courts for determining punishments for businesses and for individuals.
The guidance is the first of its kind for this category of offence and encourages magistrates to make more use of the highest level of fines for some of the more serious offences that come before the courts.
Courts have been told to determine fines for businesses and organisations on a sliding scale, with the most serious offences, which include mishandling of hazardous or chemical waste or those which incur major clean-up costs facing the largest fines.
‘These crimes are normally about making or saving money at the expense of the taxpayer. They also undermine law-abiding businesses in the waste management industry who are contributing to economic growth. This guideline aims to ensure that sentences punish offenders, deter reoffending and remove any financial gain.’
Katharine Rainsford, Sentencing Council
Large firms which are deliberately found to have breached the law could face fines of up to 3 million for these offences, while small firms with a turnover of up to 10 million face fines of up to 400,000.
Sentencing Council member and magistrate Katharine Rainsford, said: Illegal disposal of hazardous waste not only causes damage to the environment but puts peoples health at risk as well.
This guidance for courts will help ensure consistent and appropriate sentences for offenders.
These crimes are normally about making or saving money at the expense of the taxpayer. They also undermine law-abiding businesses in the waste management industry who are contributing to economic growth. This guideline aims to ensure that sentences punish offenders, deter reoffending and remove any financial gain.
Offences including in the guidance include fly-tipping, waste handling or disposal offences where a company or individuals cause pollution or harm to peoples health, or the risk of it. Other offences covered include breaches of waste permits and any breach of the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations.
The guideline also covers nuisance offenders such as those who cause noise, smoke, dust or smells, or run premises which pose a health or pollution risk.
Peter Chapman, chairman of the Magistrates Associations Judicial Committee, said: This guideline represents the successful realisation of aspirations going back many years. Magistrates sentence the majority of environmental offences and almost all fly tipping [and they live in the communities which suffer from it].
The Magistrates Association first helped magistrates in this area of their work with the publication of Costing the Earth in 2009, a compendium of case studies and sentencing scenarios for environmental offences, wildlife crime and health and safety offences.
The MA is delighted that its cooperation with the Sentencing Council has produced this much needed resource which will be welcomed in magistrates courts across England and Wales.