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Custodial sentences for Environmental Permitting offences

The financial penalties in the Churngold prosecution may on the face of it appear low. However, the Definitive Guidelines for the sentencing of environmental offences is bound to have been followed, particularly since the case went to trial. The fact that the defendants received custodial sentences, albeit suspended, should serve as a stark warning to waste companies.

The EA have reported the sentences as follows:

Churngold Recycling Ltd:

  • Between 1 July to 31 December 2011, failed to comply with conditions of permit at Hallen Yard, Avonmouth, an offence under Reg 38(2) under the Environmental Permitting Regulations: £12,000 fine
  • Between 1 September to 31 September 2011, deposited controlled waste at the Co-operative Site, Cabot Park, Avonmouth without a permit contrary to Section 33(1)(a) and 33(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990: £3,000 fine
  • Between 1 January to 31 December 2011, treated, kept or disposed of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm to human health contrary to Sections 33(1)© and 33(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990: £5,000 fine
  • Between 1 June to 31 December 2011, deposited controlled waste at Minors Farms, Hallen, Bristol contrary to Section 33(1)(a) and 33(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990: £2,450 fine

John Barcham:

  • Between 1 July to 31 December 2011, failed to comply with, or contravention of, a Waste Management Permit condition contrary to Regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010: 6 months suspended for 12 months and costs of £10,000
  • John Barcham ordered to carry out 75 hours of unpaid work

Lee Phelan:

  • Between 1 July to 31 December 2011, failed to comply with, or contravention of, a Waste Management Permit condition contrary to Regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010: 6 months suspended for 12 months
  • Between 1 September and 30 September 2011, deposited controlled waste on land without a permit contrary to Section 33(1)(a) and 33(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990: 1 month suspended for 12 months
  • Between 1 January to 31 December 2011, treated, kept or disposed of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health contrary to Section 33(1)(c) and 33(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990: 1 month suspended for 12 months
  • Lee Phelan ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work

Obviously if the community requirements of the suspended sentences are not completed then the custodial sentences could be activated by the Court.

There was no order for compensation - perhaps this was due to lack of means at the time of sentence, and that is also likely that have been reflected in the custodial sentences that were imposed.

As has also been reported by the EA, an immediate custodial sentence followed where the defendant refused to pay an order for Confiscation under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

In May 2015 Robert Murphy was sentenced to 7 months imprisonment for operating a he neither owned nor for which he had an environmental permit.

In addition to the custodial sentence a Confiscation Order was made requiring compensation of £20,793 be paid to the landowner. The Environment Agency were also awarded prosecution costs of £10,000.

Murphy failed to make any payments and has since served an additional 12 month default sentence for his failure to comply with the Confiscation Order. The Compensation Order has now been paid in full following the Court forcing the sale of his home.

It would appear therefore that the EA is becoming more sophisticated in relation to the prosecution of environment offences and the Courts are responding by handing down custodial sentences and strictly enforcing compensation orders.

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