Courts handed out more than 11 years behind bars, millions in court fines and more than 240 days of community service
Courts handed out more than 11 years behind bars, millions in court fines and more than 240 days of community service to individuals, companies and company directors who committed environmental crime last year, according to a new report.
Barbara Young, chief executive of the Environment Agency (EA), said: "We’re pleased the courts are starting to get the message that environmental crime is a serious offence and handed out over £3.5m in fines - a rise in nearly £1m since 2005.”
She added: "Although this is a good sign, penalties for environmental crime still aren’t harsh enough. Some fines can be as low as a thousandth of a per cent of a company's worth and despite the higher penalties, the average fine was still only £11,800. The law is there to protect our environment and so those businesses and individuals who think they can cut corners best watch out - we won’t tolerate it.
"Waste cheats for example make money from their crimes, pollute our environment and damage the legitimate, law-abiding businesses. So the penalties need to reflect the seriousness of the crime."
The report also shows that this year, the total fines against the waste sector overtook the water sector. In 2006 businesses in the waste sector totalled £778,077 in fines over £5,000, compared to £623,075 for the water sector.
Young continued: "Today’s report shows that there are many businesses and operators out there that are performing well with more than 50 per cent of the sites we regulate getting the top rating for environmental performance and management. We are not interested in hassling businesses and operators that run a good ship as it’s a waste of their time and ours. That’s why we focus our attention on helping the poorer performers and catching the rogues.
"As the Government’s Macrory Review recommended, the Environment Agency needs additional powers to directly impose monetary penalties and other more flexible penalties to help us support legitimate businesses that comply with environmental laws by tackling competitors that undercut them by avoiding the law and damage our environment."
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