A West Yorkshire man was recently sentenced to more than two years in prison for waste offences and handling stolen goods.
Russell Barratt, aged 50, of Maggot Farm, Stocking Lane, Knottingley, was given an immediate custodial sentence of two years and three months by Leeds Crown Court, for three offences of handling stolen goods.
For an offence of operating a waste facility without a permit, he received an immediate six month sentence to run concurrently with the handling offences.
For an offence of possessing criminal property, he received an immediate six month sentence to also run concurrently.
The charge for the waste offence was brought by the Environment Agency, with the remainder brought by the Crown Prosecution Service.
The court heard how the Environment Agency had been investigating waste activities that Mr Barratt ran at Maggot Farm in Knottingley since May 2011. The farm is 200 metres from the River Aire and next to a nature reserve.
Robert Stevenson, representing the Environment Agency, told the court that Mr Barratt did not hold an environmental permit, which is required to operate a waste facility. By ignoring the regulations, Mr Barratt had avoided costs of approximately £30,000 and by burning waste illegally, he had made considerable savings on the cost of waste disposal.
Many scrap cars, or ‘end-of-life’ vehicles, were also found at his site as part of an investigation. These are classed as hazardous waste if they haven’t had all oils, fluids and lead acid batteries carefully removed.
When Environment Agency officers carried out surveillance of the site in May 2011, they saw a large plume of black smoke coming from the site.
In July 2011, when they visited again they saw another large fire in the compound, which produced thick black smoke. Officers formed the view that plastic or car tyres were being burned. The fire service was called to extinguish the fire, and they attended three other fires there in March, May and June at a cost of between £2,700 and £4,400 per fire.
On 16 August 2011 the Environment Agency and West Yorkshire Police conducted a joint raid of the site, where Mr Barratt was arrested. Officers found a very large, poorly kept scrap yard with evidence of vehicles being dismantled and broken up without any sealed surfaces or drainage. Oils and fluids from the cars were leaking into the ground. They also found areas where waste had been burnt and materials piled up ready to be burnt.
The ground across the site was extensively contaminated with black oily sludge, and pools of contaminated water. Officers took samples of the soil and found it was contaminated by diesel or oil.
A trailer, tanker and potato harvester which had all been reported as stolen, were also found at the site.
Mr Barratt was interviewed in August and November 2011 where he denied the offences. He said he bought and sold vehicle parts, but denied that he stripped vehicles, or had burned waste. He denied that the materials stacked up were ready for burning.
Mr Barratt also denied any involvement with handling stolen goods in police interviews. He said the site was used by other people to store goods and that the stolen vehicles belonged to them.
When sentencing, Her Honour Judge Belcher said Mr Barratt’s failure to obtain a permit was a deliberate and reckless breach of the law. She also accepted that the offence had been aggravated by his failure to respond to advice and guidance from the Environment Agency and she also accepted he had avoided costs by failing to apply for a licence.
Michael Griffith, the Environment Agency’s officer in charge of the investigation said: "We have worked closely with our colleagues in West and North Yorkshire Police, as well as with the Regional Intelligence Unit as part of this investigation and to tackle major crime.
"We take waste crime very seriously and will do all we can to prosecute those responsible for damaging the environment. We’ll continue to work with the police and other agencies to make sure that people don’t profit from waste crime."
If anyone has information about or suspects people of illegal waste activity they can call 0800 80 70 60 to report it. Calls are taken in confidence and information can be shared anonymously.