Last reviewed 5 August 2022

On 8 June 2022, Glasgow Sheriff Court sentenced Declan Clarke to 11 months’ imprisonment for fly-tipping offences.

The facts

Declan Clarke was involved in large-scale fly-tipping of tyres and household waste across Glasgow. He dumped more than 51 tonnes of tyres at a waste ground. The tyres were later set alight, causing flight disruption at Glasgow airport in July 2020.

Clarke then discarded a further 500 tyres at a farm near Glasgow. He pleaded guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court to depositing controlled waste on or in land otherwise than in accordance with a waste management licence in breach of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

He ran an illegitimate business collecting van loads of tyres from garages and tyre fitters for a fee. The tyres were simply dumped on streets, car parks and empty land. Examples included:

  • 51 tonnes of tyres dumped in a street. These were later set on fire and the resulting huge amount of smoke disrupted flights at Glasgow Airport

  • in July 2020, approximately 200 tyres were dumped in a car park

  • in October 2020, 500 tyres were deposited at a farm.

Decision

The Sheriff made the following comments.

  • This was fly-tipping on an industrial scale.

  • You dumped tens of tonnes of tyres and persisted in this activity from June to November 2020 and hired workers and vans to do so.

  • You continued to do so even after you knew you were a suspect.

  • This is not a victimless crime because there was a cost to the public purse and landowners had to make a substantial cost due to fly-tipping to have it cleared.

  • The amenity of the countryside was also affected.

  • A sentence needs to be imposed not just to mark the gravity but to the cost to others and to deter others committing a similar activity.

  • There is no appropriate sentence available other than custody.

Clarke was sentenced to 11 months’ imprisonment.

Comment

The procurator fiscal for wildlife and environmental crime commented that fly-tipping caused the public real and legitimate concern. It was criminal behaviour which created an eyesore and was costly to clear up.

Clarke’s deliberate and criminal action showed a lack of consideration for the environment and undermines legitimate waste management companies.

A spokesperson for the police made the following comments:

  • Clarke was an opportunistic criminal using his illegitimate business to collect tonnes of rubbish for a fee before just dumping them across the city.

  • Not only did this end up costing significant sums for the authorities to clear up, but there was also serious and long-term environmental damage to a number of areas where tyres and waste was heaped and set on fire.

  • It was sadly unusual for fly-tipping cases to result in a custodial sentence, but it went some way to show the seriousness of Clarke’s repeated offences.

Glasgow’s Head of Parks and Streetscene made the following comments.

  • This was a shocking example of fly-tipping and he welcomed the outcome of the case.

  • The Council had to divert significant resources to clear up the waste dumped by Clarke. The subsequent fire was clearly dangerous and detrimental to the local environment. As had been shown by the case, someone guilty of fly-tipping was often just the tip of the iceberg.

The unit manager at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)’s Serious Environmental Crime Team commented as follows.

  • Waste crime has a serious and detrimental impact on our environment, communities and compliant businesses.

  • Criminals see waste as a money-making enterprise and we work closely with partners to share information and work together to use the best powers to tackle this behaviour.

  • We were pleased to work alongside Police Scotland in the detection and disruption of this significant waste offence, which has resulted in a sentence we hope will act as a deterrent to others.

  • SEPA would continue to work closely with partners to tackle persistent non-compliance and criminal activity related to waste tyres, which have the potential to release hazardous substances into the environment if set on fire and are a blight on the landscape if not treated, recycled or disposed or properly.

It is estimated that 400 million tonnes of waste are produced annually in England and Wales. Twenty-five per cent of this comprises household, commercial and industrial waste. Thirty-five per cent of commercial and industrial waste is recycled or composted.

“Waste” is defined by s.75 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as follows.

  • Waste is any substance or objects (in categories set up in Schedule 2B of the Act) which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard, being broken, worn out, contaminated or otherwise spoiled.

  • Schedule 2B lists 16 categories of substances or objects which are considered waste, provided that they are discarded. A separate category specifies any materials, substances or products which are not contained in the above 16 categories.

Sections 29 to 78 of the 1990 Act set out strict controls with the aim of ensuring that waste disposal, handling and recovery operations do not harm human health or the environment. The Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994, as amended by later regulations, contain detailed rules dealing with the waste licensing system.

Section 33 of the 1990 Act deals with the prohibition of the unauthorised or harmful depositing, treatment or disposal of waste. In summary, it states the following.

  • A person shall not deposit controlled waste or knowingly cause or knowingly permit, controlled waste to be deposited in or on any land unless a waste management licence authorising the deposit is in force.

  • A person shall not treat, keep or dispose of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health.

These are strict liability offences. Intention or negligence on the part of defendants does not have to be proved.