A skip hire boss from County Durham has been ordered to pay back £14,000 after he was prosecuted by the Environment Agency for illegally dumping and burning waste.
John Gary Friedlander, 44, of Whitwell South Farm, Bowburn, County Durham, pleaded guilty to two offences part way through his trial at Newcastle Crown Court in August 2010.
However he was back at the crown court today where he was told to pay back the money which had been acquired through his illegal activity. Friedlander has six months to comply with the confiscation order otherwise he faces nine months in prison. He was also fined £100 for each offence.
Lee Fish, prosecuting counsel for the Environment Agency, said Friedlander ran two illegal waste sites in County Durham and ignored repeated warnings to stop.
The court heard that Friedlander was the director of AAA Skip and Plant Hire Limited and operated from his home at Whitwell South Farm in Bowburn, and on land that he leased at Mainsforth Terrace, off Mainsforth Road in Ferryhill.
Mr Fish said that although the defendant was registered to carry waste, neither site was licensed by the Environment Agency as a waste facility.
Environment officers first visited Whitwell Farm, which is on green belt land, in March 2008 and saw demolition waste being stored and burnt. Around 30 skips were seen on site and Friedlander was warned that he needed an environmental permit to continue keeping and treating waste.
In May 2008, officers visited again and found a large mound of soil around the farm with rubble on the top. There was also a skip half full of waste and a smouldering fire.
The court heard that Friedlander was told that the soil bank and all the skips, including those with waste in them, should be removed, and he must stop tipping immediately.
Mr Fish said that when Environment Agency officers visited the site again in August they found the soil mound next to the farm was ten feet high and made of inert material, soil, gravel and bricks. A JCB and a collection of full and empty skips were parked within the mound.
Further visits between August 2008 and March 2009 found more waste being brought and dumped on the site, and large quantities burnt.
Mr Fish said Friedlander was determined to ignore Environment Agency advice and continued to burn and deposit waste on the land illegally.
In October 2008, environment officers were alerted to burning waste at Mainsforth Terrace in Ferryhill. They found the site being used as an illegal waste transfer station, with mixed waste – including plasterboard, polystyrene, scrap metal and rubble.
Friedlander was told to stop tipping and burning waste immediately and when they returned the following month some of the waste had been moved.
The court heard controls exist to ensure waste is treated and disposed of without harming human health or damage to the environment. For this reason, an environmental permit is required.
Some activities are exempt under the law and although Friedlander registered exemptions for operations at both sites, these were not relevant and he still needed an environmental permit.
The court heard that Friedlander’s offending would have given him an advantage over competitors, as he avoided costs that legitimate operators would incur.
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, Friedlander was ordered to pay back £14,000 because the only assets he had left were the equity in his own home. Judge Guy Whitburn QC ruled that he benefited from his criminal activity to the sum of £175,000 and if his financial situation changes in future he will have to pay more back.
The Judge commended the Environment Agency on its investigation which resulted in the removal of an illegal operator who caused considerable nuisance in the Durham area.
Speaking after the case, John Robertson from the Environment Agency’s Environmental Crime Team in the North East said: "Waste crime puts the environment and human health at risk and undermines legitimate business. Our team is here to make sure that waste crime doesn’t pay."