The Environment Agency and Lancashire Police have today helped to secure £315,500 in fines and costs under the Proceeds of Crime Act and environmental legislation, for organised crime carried out in Lancaster.
David Peters and Tracey Noble pleaded guilty to offences concerning the operation of a scrap metal yard, at Preston Crown Court. They were ordered to forfeit items from the business including a forklift truck and HGV, as well as receiving a hefty fine. The site did not have the required environmental permits in place to carry out these activities, and was undercutting legitimate businesses.
Both defendants could face imprisonment if they fail to pay the debts within six months.
The prosecution came as a result of Operation Blade, which saw joint working between the Environment Agency and Lancashire Police to investigate and tackle illegal waste activity across the county. The Environment Agency has the power to seize assets under the proceeds of crime legislation, and worked closely with the police and Crown Prosecution Service to ensure the legislation was used to maximum effect.
A site visit to Ridge Farm, Lancaster, carried out as part of the operation, found hundreds of vehicles being held on site in various states of disrepair. The site was not set up to handle the hazardous wastes and liquids which come from vehicles. There were no sealed drainage system and vehicle parts were not stored on a suitably impermeable surface. As such, the site could cause significant harm to the environment.
Liz O’Neil, Area Manager for the Environment Agency said, "This case sends out a clear message that waste crime is a serious crime.
"We have the legal powers through the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize property and assets where it is proved that these environmental criminals benefited from their actions.
"We have dedicated environmental crime teams within the Environment Agency and have worked closely with Lancashire Police to bring these criminals to justice.
"This enables us to fulfil our role to protect and improve the environment and ensure that illegal waste sites do not have an unfair and detrimental impact on legitimate business and local communities."
Sgt Fraser Earnshaw, Lancashire Police, said: "This is a very satisfying result for a multi-agency operation, that involved the Environment Agency, the police and our financial investigators and support units, along with other partners such as Health and Safety and the local council.
"This result goes to prove that partner agencies will work together to relentlessly pursue those who are involved in organised crime so that we can bring them before the courts and obtain justice."
Robert Smith, Crown Advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service in Lancashire said: "This was a deliberate attempt by David Peters and Tracey Noble to operate a scrap metal business illegally so that they could make as much money as possible in a short space of time without having to keep to the regulations that apply to the waste management industry. As well as prosecuting them for this illegal operation, by charging them under the Proceeds of Crime Act, we are ensuring that they can’t keep hold of the money they amassed in this way."
The Environment Agency works to protect and improve the environment. Sites that operate without a valid permit in place have the potential to cause serious harm to the environment.
It is important that members of the public use legitimate businesses to dispose of scrap vehicles. To find out details of those will the correct environmental permits visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk, or call 08708 506 506.