Last reviewed 1 October 2019
On 13 August 2019, Wolverhampton Crown Court ordered two firms and its directors to pay around £85,000 in fines and costs and issued suspended sentences for abandoning nearly 2000 tonnes of waste in Dudley in 2016.
The Court heard that a site at Shaw Road Dudley was jointly operated by Rowanoak Waste Services Limited, whose directors were Kevin Allan and Randle Hawkins, and Mak Waste Limited, whose directors had been Edward Venables (formally Boulton) and Brian McIntosh. In 2016, the site was abandoned, leaving behind an estimated 2000 tonnes of waste.
The Court was told that the dust from the site was continuing to affect nearby businesses, covering customers’ cars and business vehicles. Debris also blocked guttering and affected the air conditioning at factory units nearby. Employees described the smells emitted from the site as “stomach churning” and likened them to the smell of rotting vegetables and sewage.
The Environment Agency attempted to use various enforcement tools to bring the site into compliance and issued a revocation notice, which required all waste to be removed from the site. The firms failed to act on the advice and guidance of the Environment Agency and also failed comply with these notices. In March 2018 the Environment Agency worked with the new landowners to remove the waste.
Rowanoak Waste Services Limited and its directors Kevin Allan and Randle Hawkins were found guilty following a jury trial in June. HHJ Kershaw sentenced Mr Allan to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered him to complete 100 hours’ unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £40,000 towards the prosecution’s costs and was disqualified from acting as a company director for three years. The Judge noted that Mr Allan had showed no remorse for his actions during the trial, although he took into account his age (60) and his previous good character. His company, Rowanoak Waste Services Limited, was also fined £25,000.
Randle Hawkins, was convicted of deliberately failing to comply with a revocation notice, although he was cleared of four other charges relating to the breach of the permit and enforcement notice. He was ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £1000 towards the prosecution costs, following his conviction.
Mak Waste and its director Brian McIntosh pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the terms of the site’s permit. They admitted their continual failure to comply with the Environment Agency’s requests. Mr McIntosh was also found to have allowed the breaches to occur despite noticing the site’s decline while making empty promises to the Environment Agency’s officers. Mr McIntosh was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment, again suspended for 12 months, and ordered to complete 150 hours’ unpaid work. He was ordered to pay £1200 towards the prosecution costs and was further disqualified from acting as a director for five years. Mr McIntosh had credit given due to his earlier guilty plea, and the Judge further took into account his good behaviour since the commission of the offences. He also fined Mak Waste £18,000. The other director of Mak Waste, Edward Venables, was found not guilty of the charges against him.
After the case, the Environment Agency officer in charge of the investigation said:
Waste crime is a serious offence with tough penalties. It can damage the environment, blight local communities and undermine those who operate legally. We aim to disrupt, prevent and investigate illegal waste activity and take enforcement action where we can. In this case, those found guilty, by being in breach of their permit, continued to operate their site illegally and continually ignored the Environment Agency’s efforts to reduce the waste.
The Environment Agency use all enforcement powers available where we believe environmental offences have been committed.
Allan, McIntosh and Hawkins have shown a complete disregard for the local community, subjecting local businesses to months of misery by illegally and inappropriately storing large quantities of waste on the site.
Everyone who handles waste has a duty of care to ensure their waste is handled correctly. Whether you are a business, local authority or householder you must make sure you know where your waste goes so it doesn’t end up in the hands of illegal operators.
This case just preceded the publication of the Environment Agency’s annual report on 22 July 2019. In that report, the Agency states that one of its key priorities is to reduce the impact of waste crime on local communities and to level the playing for legitimate businesses. It reports that it closes at least 2 illegal waste sites every day and has brought 77 successful waste crime prosecutions, resulting in 8 prison sentences and fines of £440k in 2018/2019.
It notes that the number of serious and significant pollution incidents (known as category 1 and 2 incidents), increased from 432 to 493 incidents over the past year, which the Agency attributes partly to the patterns of prolonged periods of dry and hot weather. Four sectors (water companies, illegal waste sites, agriculture and other non-regulated sectors) accounted for 66% of all category 1 and 2 incidents. The Agency also reports that the number of incidents increased in relation to illegal waste management (46 to 69) and water (58 to 69) companies. In addition, the number of high-risk illegal waste sites only reduced from 259 to 250.
The new powers it received this year have undoubtedly assisted with providing the Environment Agency with more options to intervene at an earlier stage. The additional £40 million announced in the November 2017 and 2018 budgets also helped increase staff and enabled the Agency to address specific concerns. With the new systems now bedded in, it would appear that 2019/2020 will continue along a similar path, with the Agency seeking to close down illegal sites without involving the courts, but instead using a range of alternative actions. However, as this case shows, if a case does reach the courts, a range of sentencing options for both firms, and the people in charge, can be utilised.