Business owners found guilty of illegal disposal of rubbish and waste are to face more severe punishment in future following an announcement that the sentencing Council in England and Wales are to review the sentencing guidelines for environmental crimes.  It has been proposed that those found guilty of offences such as fly tipping or the illegal disposal of hazardous waste could incur much larger fines going forward.

Environmental crimes currently lack specific sentencing guidelines, therefore allowing for variation in sentencing throughout the country.  There have also been concerns expressed that current punishments handed down are too lenient; prompting the sentencing council to call for more severe punishments for serious offenders.

According to figures, local authorities cleared up around 800,000 incidents of fly-tipping in England and Wales last year. In the draft guidelines, it is proposed that small businesses could face up to £2000 for relatively ‘minor’ offences, rising to up to £70,000 for serious or harmful incidents.  Under the proposals, larger businesses could see significantly larger fines of up to £2 million for environmental damage.

In addition to a move towards consistency in sentencing, there appears to be a motivation to increase monetary punishment for offenders. Indeed, Katharine Rainsford, a magistrate and member of the Sentencing Council commented on the draft guidelines “These offences are normally motivated by making or saving money at the expense of the taxpayer. Our proposals aim to ensure that sentences hit offenders in their pocket.”

It is clear that there is a determination to tackle environmental crimes and as such, offenders will face greatly increased fines; even if the final guidelines published differ from the above described draft proposals. It is also likely that we will see an increase in the number of cases taken to court and prosecutions imposed.

With these changes coming into force, it is more important than ever to seek legal advice at the earliest stage if you are facing an Environment Agency investigation in order to ensure you have the best possible chance of defence. Farleys have a team of serious crime solicitors who are perfectly placed to assist in the defence of an environmental law breach. We have experience in successfully defending environmental crimes throughout the UK and are able to advise and represent you in such cases. Please do not hesitate to contact us today for a free initial discussion.