Last reviewed 11 April 2022

On 7 February 2022, Leeds Crown Court sentenced a fly-tipper to 15 months imprisonment.

The Facts

Martin Hughes, a resident of Leeds, was prosecuted at Leeds Crown Court for six charges of fly-tipping and one duty-of-care offence under the Environment Protection Act 1990.

Leeds City Council stated that the prosecution followed a complex investigation carried out by environmental enforcement officers. The investigation gathered evidence from a number of fly-tips, from which the officers were able to establish a link to Hughes.

Hughes had operated a commercial waste removal business without the required licences and had illegally disposed of commercial and household waste across Leeds throughout 2018 and 2019.

Officers strategically deployed CCTV cameras at fly-tipping locations following evidence linking Hughes to multiple fly-tipping incidents. The cameras recorded waste being dumped from a van owned by Hughes on two occasions at the same location. Further evidence was found which linked Hughes to other fly-tipping incidents.

The van owned by Hughes was seized and searched. Officers found it to be filled with household waste, including sofas, wood and garden waste. The van had little recoverable value and Hughes did not claim it. It was crushed and scrapped.

Decision

Martin Hughes, a resident of Leeds, was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to six charges of fly-tipping and one duty-of-care offence under the Environment Protection Act 1990.

Comment

Leeds City Council’s executive member for environment and housing is reported to have made these comments after the case.

  • Fly-tipping was recognised as a national issue. Leeds City Council had a very clear message: it would not tolerate fly-tipping in Leeds and would continue to prosecute anyone who believed that they could flout the rules and blight its communities and environment. It was pleasing to see the courts using their custodial sentencing power to show that fly-tipping was not worth the price.

  • The council had recently announced the establishment of a new Serious Environment Crime Team. This would allow the council to dedicate even more time investigating and tracking down waste collection companies and individuals who were illegally operating and creating many of the fly-tips which occurred in Leeds.

Fly-tipping is the illegal deposit of waste on land. It may be liquid or solid and can vary in extent, from a single bin bag to a large quantity dumped from a truck. It involves the removal of waste from premises where it was produced, with the deliberate aim of disposing of it unlawfully or as a result of lawful outlets not being available. Fly-tipping can be distinguished from littering in that it involves the removal of waste from the place where it was produced, with the deliberate aim of unlawful disposal.

Aspects of the fly-tipping issue include the following.

  • It is reported to cost an estimated £100 million annually for investigation and clearance.

  • Fly-tipping creates a threat to humans and wildlife and damages the environment.

  • It undermines legitimate waste disposal businesses by undercutting their charges.

The offence of fly-tipping is dealt with by s.33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. There are additional offences of knowingly causing or knowingly permitting fly-tipping. The registered keeper of a vehicle may be liable if the vehicle is used for fly-tipping. Persons who produce waste have a duty of care under s.34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to ensure that it is lawfully disposed of. Thus, there may be liability under s.34 if waste has been fly-tipped even where the tipping was carried out by another person. These offences are enforceable by local authorities and by the Environment Agency.

Penalties for the offences are as follows.

  • Summary conviction in the magistrates’ court: imprisonment for a maximum of 12 months or a fine, or both.

  • On conviction in the Crown Court before a judge and jury: imprisonment for a maximum of five years or a fine, or both.

Fly-tipping statistics for 2020/21 include the following:

  • Local authorities dealt with 1.13 million incidents.

  • 65% of incidents involved household waste.

  • 43% of fly-tips were on highways.

  • Most incidents were equivalent to a small van load.

  • 4% of incidents were of tipper lorry load size or larger. The cost of clearing large incidents was £11.6 million.

  • Local authorities carried out 456,000 enforcement actions. The total value of fines imposed was £440,000.

In 2016, local authorities were empowered to issue fixed penalty notices of between £150 and £400 to those caught in the act of fly-tipping. The Environment Minister who introduced the power is reported to have made the following comments.

  • The fixed penalty notices would provide local authorities with another tool to crack down on the selfish individuals who blight our neighbourhoods and ruin our beautiful landscape.

  • The fines would also act as a deterrent and the Government would continue to work with local authorities to tackle the root cause of fly-tipping and change the mentality of those who commit such crimes.

The notices would also save local authorities time and money in punishing offenders because they would provide a quicker alternative to prosecuting fly-tippers through the courts.