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New Sentencing Guidelines for Environmental Offences 2014

The Sentencing Guidelines Council has recently published Sentencing Guidelines for environmental offences. This is the first time that Guidelines have been issued for these types of offences and those companies and individuals who fall to be sentenced for such offences will face bigger fines. 

The Guidelines have been published following concern expressed by environmental groups and Magistrates that fines being passed by the Court were not high enough to reflect the seriousness of the offences committed or to have a deterrent effect. In addition it was felt that there was an inconsistency in fines across the country reflecting the limited guidance previously available.

The Guidelines cover a variety of offences related to the disposal of waste and rubbish mostly covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. 

This includes fly-tipping, whether this is a company tipping a lorry-load of used tyres in a field or a householder dumping an old mattress in an alleyway. It also covers waste handling or disposal offences where a company or individuals cause pollution or harm to people’s health, or the risk of it. For example, this could include a water company allowing untreated sewage to end up on a beach or a rubbish tip operator not storing barrels of chemicals properly so that they leak into the surrounding area.

Sentencing Council member and magistrate Katharine Rainsford said, “Illegal disposal of hazardous waste not only causes damage to the environment but puts people’s health at risk as well.

“This guidance for Courts will help ensure consistent and appropriate sentences for offenders.

“These crimes are normally about making or saving money at the expense of the taxpayer. They also undermine law-abiding businesses in the waste management industry who are contributing to economic growth. This guideline aims to ensure that sentences hit offenders in their pocket.”

The Guidelines seek to encourage Magistrates to make more use of the highest level of fines, namely the statutory maximum of £50,000 in the Magistrates Court, for the more serious offences for both organisations and individuals. The Guidelines provide a suggested range of fines for the most serious offences before the Crown Court of up to £3 million against organisations. In relation to individuals fines are the most common sentence passed but custody remains the starting point for the most serious types of offences. 

The Guidelines will be in force from 1 July 2014 and are available on the Sentencing Guidelines Council website.

Our Business Crime & Regulation Solicitors have over 30 years’ experience and are regarded as market leaders. We are available 24/7 and offer a free initial consultation if you:

  • Want advice about whether your business is complying with relevant environmental laws and regulations
  • Are the subject of an investigation by the Environmental Agency or police
  • Are asked to assist with an Environmental Agency investigation.

For a free initial consultation contact Slater and Gordon Lawyers Shula de Jersey in London or Craig McAdam in Manchester.

Call freephone 0800 916 9054 or contact us online and we will call you.