On the 23rd October 2012, traffic chaos was caused in the area of Lower Nazeing near Harlow, due to Laundry Lane being closed in both directions on Monday evening and Tuesday morning after motorists reported 7 tonnes of rubbish dumped in the middle of the road.
It is understood that the rubbish was building rubble and Epping Forrest District Council had the unenviable task of clearing the road. A spokesperson for the council said that it was working alongside Essex County Council to clear the road. The sheer volume of waste caused its own problems when a large crane which had been brought in to clear some of the waste was not able to get in position to do so because of power cables and other local 'street furniture', and a second smaller crane had to be brought in.
Will Breare-Hall a spokesperson for the environment from Epping Council stated "it's appalling that anyone could be so irresponsible as to illegally dump this quantity of rubble and block a public road. This is one of the most outrageous examples of fly tipping we have ever come across, so I encourage anyone with information that might identify the culprit to contact the District Council".
It is not known at this stage what the cost of the clean up operation has been, but it is understood that the road is now open.
Most councils have environmental crime teams, which take enforcement action against householders and businesses who either deliberately illegally deposit their waste of fail to take the necessary precautions to ensure their waste is collected by a registered waste carrier. There is a range of actions available to councils including warnings, formal cautions, prosecution in a Magistrates or Crown Court, vehicle seizures and injunctions. If the action is successful, offenders will also have to pay any costs of the investigation, clean up vehicle recovery costs and legal fees which if Court action is taken, could include the total legal costs of those proceedings.
The penalties available for illegally dumping waste in the Magistrates' Court are a fine of up to £50,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment. If the case were to go to the Crown Court, the maximum penalties there are an unlimited fine and/or five years imprisonment. Other penalties that can be imposed are:
- Forfeiture of any vehicle used for fly tipping
- Anti-social behaviour orders
- Driving bans
- Community punishment orders
- Conditional discharges
- Formal cautions
- Cost awards
- Referral orders
- Fixed penalty fines for failure to produce appropriate documentation
A recent example of just what the powers of the Courts are in relation to these sorts of offences was a case involving two men who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully deposit controlled waste. It involved the dumping of more than 14,000 tonnes of waste, including asbestos, across London and Essex. James Kelleher and Patrick Anderson were sentenced to 14 and 22 months in prison respectively. The Environment Agency lead the investigation and had even gone to the length of issuing a European Arrest Warrant to bring one of the Defendants back to the jurisdiction of the Court to face charges. The pair dumped 750 separate lorry loads of waste at 15 sites across London and Essex on both public and privately owned land between January 2003 and June 2004. The majority of the £340,000 costs of the cleanup operation were borne by the tax payer.
The above is not legal advice, it is intended to provide information of general interest in current legal issues.