Bigger fines for environment crimes


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Environmental offences such as fly-tipping are to be punished by larger fines under new sentencing guidelines for courts in England and Wales.

New guidelines from the Sentencing Council 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.

In addition, the new guidelines deal with nuisance offenders such as those who cause noise, smoke, dust or smells, or run premises which pose a health or pollution risk.

Magistrates are encouraged to make more use of the highest levels of fines for some of the more serious offences that come before the courts, the Sentencing Council said.

Corporate offenders committing serious offences, who are likely to be those causing most damage or risk to health, are expected to get higher fines.

There are unlikely to be significant changes to penalty levels for lower-level offences and the overall proportions of offenders receiving the various types of sentence such as fines, community sentences,
discharges and prison sentences, are expected to remain the same.

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."

Fines are the most common sentences passed for these offences, since the offences are motivated by making a profit or saving money, but custody remains the starting point for the most serious types of individual offenders who deliberately commit a crime that causes significant or major harm.

Publication of the guideline follows a public consultation last year and takes into account views from those who responded, such as judges and magistrates, lawyers, environmental professionals, local authorities, the waste industry and members of the public.