Neglecting Environmental Protection Measures is No Way to Save Money!

Neglecting Environmental Protection Measures is No Way to Save Money

Businesses in financial trouble may be tempted to save money by giving low priority to compliance with environmental protection laws. The grave penal and reputational consequences of such a course were, however, underlined by a case concerning two major pollution incidents at the premises of a skip hire company.

Due to the financial strain it was under, the company took to storing enormous volumes of waste on its premises rather than covering the cost of disposing of it elsewhere. Warnings from the Environment Agency and others were not acted on before a catastrophic fire broke out that burnt for over a week. The company promised to learn from the disaster and a plan was put in place.

However, waste was again allowed to accumulate on the site and a second, even more serious fire broke out about a month after the first. Thick smoke from 5,000 tonnes of burning waste hung over a nearby settlement and a toxic chemical soup ran into a canal, killing about 3,000 fish. The company’s insurance had lapsed by the time of the second blaze and, after it entered insolvency, the vast cost of dealing with the environmental fallout of the incident fell on the public purse.

After the Environment Agency prosecuted the company’s operations director, he pleaded guilty to two offences under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 and two more under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Together with a £270 fine and a nine-month suspended prison sentence, he was required to perform 180 hours of unpaid work. The judge who sentenced him described the company’s conduct as highly reckless.

Dismissing his appeal against those sentences, the Court of Appeal found that his punishment could in no way be described as manifestly excessive. The fires had broken out close to schools, homes and environmentally sensitive sites and there was an element of financial gain in the repeated offences. Given the very high level of recklessness involved and the overriding need to protect the environment, the Court noted that some judges might have imposed an immediate prison sentence.

Our articles are provided for general interest and information only. They do not constitute legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content accurately reflects the law in England as at the date of its transmission, no liability is accepted for any loss or damage arising from any act or omission resulting from any information contained herein.

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