Breakthrough prosecution for fly-tipping conspiracy

The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted two serial fly-tippers using a conspiracy charge for the first time.

Two men who fly-tipped nearly 15,000 tonnes of waste across London - including on a traffic island in the middle of the North Circular - were jailed for a total of 36 months in June.

The case marked a breakthrough for the Agency because it was the first time it had taken a conspiracy charge to court, and the first time it had used a European arrest warrant to bring a defendant to face charges in the UK.

Appearing before the Inner London Crown Court on 11 June, Patrick Anderson, 51, from Ireland, and James Kelleher, 39, from Dagenham, east London, both pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to unlawfully deposit waste, contrary to section 2(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

Anderson was sentenced to 22 months, with Kelleher receiving 14 months. The maximum sentence was two years because the offences occurred before the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, which raised the maximum prison term for such offences to five years (ENDS Report 369, p 34 ).

Between January 2003 and June 2004, the pair dumped over 14,600 tonnes of construction and demolition waste -equal to some 750 lorry loads - on at least 15 sites across Greater London.

The pair broke into sites awaiting development so they could dump waste, replacing the locks with their own. They usually went to great lengths to make the dumping appear legitimate, putting up their own company logos and health and safety signs.

However, on one occasion, the pair stopped traffic during rush hour on the A406 in Barking, commonly known as the North Circular, to dump material on a traffic island.

Agency officers from the Thames and Anglian regions investigated each incident at the time, but made little progress because the pair used false names and addresses. The operation was only foiled in June 2004 when a police raid on a haulage depot in Essex led to the discovery of a cash book that provided details of past incidents.

The operation’s annual turnover was some £1.2 million at the time of the incidents, the Agency said.

The case took four years to bring to court due to its complexity and because the Agency had to wait for the Crown Prosecution Service to issue a European arrest warrant for Mr Anderson and for the Irish Garda to act on it.

The Agency decided to use a conspiracy charge because it meant the court could see the full extent of the offences committed. If it had simply prosecuted the pair for dumping waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the pair could have chosen which charges to plead guilty to, lessening the likely sentence.

The waste came from construction sites and waste transfer stations. None of the operators of these sites will face prosecution for breaches of duty of their care. They all assisted the Agency with the investigation and have since revised internal procedures, the Agency said.