Last reviewed 12 September 2014
On 25 July 2014, Norwich Crown Court ordered a local man to repay over £20,000 of illegally gained revenues after finding him guilty of illegal waste tipping over a three-year period. The court also fined Mr Richard Fiddian, who traded as Norfolk Forest Products, £750 and ordered him to pay full prosecution costs of £3375 for the offences contrary to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.
The Environment Agency, prosecuting, informed the court that the prosecutions followed a prolonged investigation into the defendant’s activities between April 2010 and February 2013. During this period, Mr Fiddian was registered with the Agency as an authorised waste transporter. Although he operated his business from a site in North Barningham, this was not authorised to receive waste materials for any purpose.
Despite this, Agency officers were alerted to the fact that the defendant was using the site to dispose of waste materials that he had collected from other waste businesses. This included waste collected from septic tanks and from cess pits. On visiting the site, Agency officers discovered large quantities of waste spread all across the site, which was emitting a strong smell of sewage.
On questioning, the defendant claimed that he was unaware that he needed a permit in order to dispose of waste in this manner and had been carrying out this process since April 2010. However, the Agency informed the court that Mr Fiddian had been informed of the need for a permit several times before the illegal waste disposal had started. The Agency estimated that nearly 500,000 gallons of waste had been deposited at the site over the three-year period resulting in significant savings to the defendant from avoiding proper disposal costs and permitting costs.
This case highlights the Agency’s willingness to use confiscation powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 for environmental offences when necessary. Between 2011 and 2013, orders were made for the confiscation of over £3.5 million worth of assets linked to environmental crime with a third of that being payable to the Environment Agency. Although the Agency expects the need for such orders to decrease as a result of its shift in focus to target waste offenders before they commit offences rather than reacting to waste crime, the power to request confiscation orders remains a significant tool available to the Agency.
Confiscation orders can be made over a wide range of assets including cash, vehicles and real estate. A common misconception is that orders can only be made in relation to “profits” made from illegal activities. However, confiscation orders can in fact be made in relation to any “proceeds” that derive from the illegal activity. This significantly broadens the scope of any confiscation order imposed and, coupled with the threat of imprisonment for non-payment of any confiscation order, should be a significant deterrent for any waste offenders.
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