Last reviewed 11 February 2020
On 8 January 2020, Plymouth Magistrates’ Court sentenced Adam Wilcott to a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 2 years, for running an illegal waste site. He was also ordered to undertake 100 hours of unpaid work, pay £2,308 costs and was banned from working in the waste industry for 5 years. His firm, Highgate Services Ltd, was fined £18,800 and ordered to pay £2,338 costs.
The Court heard that Adam Wilcott, of Copleston Road, Plymouth, ran a waste transfer station at Trevol Business Park at Torpoint, Cornwall on behalf of Highgate Services Ltd. Highgate took over the environmental permit from Wilco’s Waste Management Ltd in December 2017. The permit allowed the site to accept non-hazardous waste, which included stone, rubble, brick, wood, packaging, plastics, construction waste, metal and household wastes. The waste was to be sorted, with any material of value to be sold to other sites for reprocessing, reuse or recovery.
In January 2018, Environment Agency officers visited the transfer station and noticed it was in a ‘very poor state’. Waste was being stored in skips outside of the allowed area, whilst unsorted waste spilled over into adjacent land and contaminated run-off overflowed from a drain. The main building was also poorly maintained, which had resulted in flooding of an area used to store waste.
Highgate Services was issued with a Compliance Assessment Report which listed 5 breaches of its site permit. Despite officers making four site inspections between April and August 2018, and notifying the company of continuing problems, the firm made no attempt to rectify the problems.
In July 2018, Adam Wilcott denied access to an Environment Agency officer who had arrived for an inspection by deliberately locking the waste transfer station. The officer inspected the site from the boundary, noting that it was still in a poor state. When the officer returned a few days later, they reported the site ‘appeared to be out of control’ and was ‘rammed full of mixed skip waste with many tonnes spilling into the yard.’ The officer repeatedly attempted to contact Michael Bonar, the sole director of Highgate Services Ltd, to no avail.
The Court was told that Highgate Services was then served with three separate enforcement notices, requiring it to reduce the amount of waste on the site within the specified time period. The company complied with the first notice but failed to comply with the other two.
In November 2018, the waste transfer station ceased operating. It was subsequently sold to a developer with a large amount of waste still abandoned on site. The Environment Agency is working to ensure the new landowner clears the site of the waste.
Adam Wilcott pleaded guilty to four offences under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016, including failing to comply with an enforcement notice and not operating a management system that reduced the risk of pollution. He was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 2 years, ordered to pay £2,308 costs and carry out 100 hours of unpaid work. He was made the subject of a Criminal Behaviour Order, preventing him from taking part in any waste business activities for 5 years.
Highgate Services Ltd was fined £18,800 and ordered to pay £2,338 costs after pleading guilty to the same 4 offences under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.
After the hearing, Tina Cossens, for the Environment Agency, said:
It is important waste operators comply with the conditions of their permits to safeguard the environment and people. The defendants in this case continued to operate illegally despite receiving advice and guidance from the Environment Agency on numerous occasions. The operators allowed the site to steadily deteriorate until finally we were left with no choice other than to prosecute.
The Criminal Behaviour Order is a forceful step taken by the Court. However, this is the third time that Mr Wilcott has been prosecuted for waste offences. In a twist to the case, Wilcott was previously the Director of Wilco’s Waste Management, which was first prosecuted in February 2015 for breaches to their environmental permit and failing to respond to an enforcement notice. In 2016, the company was prosecuted again, along with its director, (see our earlier report here). The company breached its environmental permit by accepting unauthorised hazardous waste over a three-year period which, the Environment Agency said, ‘posed a threat to the environment’. Wilcott admitted the offences, stating that he had allowed the waste for commercial reasons in order to keep his business afloat. The company was fined in £12,000 for a further six offences for breaching their permit and ordered to pay £4,721 in costs. Wilcott was fined £1,920 and ordered to pay a £32 victim surcharge.
As the Order stops an individual from running their business, this case shows that a substantial pattern of offending behaviour is required before an Order is made. Mr Wilcott had several opportunities — including within this case — to correct the breaches within his permits. However, by failing to act, and allowing an accumulation of criminal behaviour, he has been barred from trading or working within the industry. The case thus serves as a stark reminder of the need for proactive waste management and responsiveness to any Environment Agency enforcement action.