Regional adviser for the CLA, Jane Harrison, at a fly-tipping
site near the village of Brandsby, North Yorkshire
COURTS handed out more than 11 years behind bars, millions in fines and more than 240 days of community service to individuals, companies and company directors who committed environmental crime last year across England and Wales, according to a new report launched yesterday (Tuesday).
Andrew Wood, regional director of the Environment Agency in the North East, said: "We're pleased the courts are starting to get the message that environmental crime is a serious offence and handed out over £3.5 million in fines - a rise in nearly £1 million since 2005.
"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."
One of the fastest growing group of offenders against the environment are so called "waste-cheats" - including fly-tippers who are a widespread nuisance in the Yorkshire Dales and are forecast to become even more active as dustbin collections get fewer and recycling rules get tougher.
"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," Wood added.
The report shows that this year, the total fines nationally 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.