New sentencing guidelines urging greater fines have been launched for companies and individuals that commit environmental offence.
It is estimated that there are more than 1,000 illegal waste sites throughout the UK, causing vast amounts of pollution and ruining people’s lives.
The new guidelines for judges and magistrates were published by the Sentencing Council as there is no current advice for magistrates and judges with regards to applying sentences for those who breach waste regulations.
The Sentencing Council cautioned that some magistrates were not sufficiently familiar with waste crime and that “levels of some fines were too low and did not reflect the seriousness of the offence committed”.
“Corporate offenders committing serious offences, who are likely to be those causing most damage or risk to health, are expected to get higher fines.”
The new guidelines, which will apply a consistent approach by courts in England and Wales, states “it should not be cheaper to offend than to take the appropriate precautions”.
Most waste crimes are covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.
Larger organisations will now be fined upwards from £1m to a maximum of £3m if their offense is considered to be ‘category 1’ – where a company’s actions have ‘major adverse effects’ or incur major clean-up costs.
In its response to a consultation on the guidelines, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) said:
“The regulated industry ESA represents is one of the most direct victims of environmental crime, as its business activities are often directly undercut by those environmental criminals who cut costs by circumventing or blatantly ignoring the relevant environmental laws.”
Sentencing Council member and magistrate Katharine Rainsford said:
“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.”
Current sentencing for offenders includes fines and community sentences to prison for the more serious offenders.
Residents are encouraged to report cases of waste dumping so that the offenders can be traced and taken to court for prosecution.