Waste enforcement officers to wear body cameras after rise in abuse

Waste enforcement officers will wear body cameras when visiting illegal waste sites following a growing number of abusive incidents.

The Environment Agency said it has prosecuted more than 60 individuals for offences against staff members since 2001 and the cameras have been introduced to help bring about further convictions.

As part of the Government's £30 million plan to tackle waste crime, the agency has also been given greater powers to lock up illegal sites that generate tonnes of waste.

Rogue operators will also be made to clear all waste at a problem site, not just the illegal waste.

The measures are the result of a public consultation where 90% of respondents supported the introduction of physical steps to curb illegal waste activity, which poses a threat to legitimate operators and the environment.

Paul Whitehill, an Environment Agency waste officer, said: "As a former police officer, I've seen routine visits rapidly escalate into threatening, or sometimes even violent, situations. Sadly the same risks apply to the Environment Agency's officers.

"We want to get on with our jobs without the threat of violence and the cameras will help to protect staff and bring obstructive individuals to justice."

Throughout 2016 and 2017, the Environment Agency brought 138 prosecutions against businesses or individuals for waste crime offences, yielding more than £2 million in fines.

Environment minister Therese Coffey said: "These new powers will give the Environment Agency the tools they need to curb the rise of waste sites that continue to break the law and blight our communities.

"Through our 25-year environment plan we want to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.

"As part of that commitment I am determined to crack down on these criminals and these new powers will be crucial in ending this criminal activity once and for all, backed up by £30 million of new money."

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