A man the Environment Agency described as a "serious, well-organised career criminal who made environmental crime his professional business" has been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.
Reading crown court set a record in custodial sentences for waste convictions on 10 October by sentencing Harvey Stuart Gibson. It also ordered him to pay £20,000 in costs.
Gibson pleaded guilty to charges of illegally depositing and disposing of waste, in contravention of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. He also admitted managing a company while disqualified to do so by a court order, in contravention of the Company Disqualification Act 1986.
The case against Gibson was brought jointly by the Environment Agency and the Business Department (BERR).
The charges related to Gibson’s activities during 2004-06 when as manager of GD Massey & Sons Ltd he organised the large-scale illegal transfer and disposal of waste. The company operated legitimately before he took over but has now gone into liquidation.
The court heard that Gibson’s appointment was made in spite of previous convictions for waste offences and a six-month jail sentence for managing a company while disqualified.
The Agency’s investigation found the firm was taking business waste from across North London and the home counties, and dumping it at a disused quarry in Tidmarsh, Berkshire and in a field in Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire. The company ran a waste transfer station in Watford and officers found much of the waste came from a large shopping centre in the town.
The court was told that dangerous substances such as ammonia from the Tidmarsh site posed a threat to a chalk drinking water aquifer underlying the area.
"Once it has become contaminated, chalk groundwater is virtually impossible to clean up," said Agency groundwater specialist Jenny Thomas.
Evidence was also submitted to the court that Gibson repeatedly stored and burned controlled waste at the Watford transfer station, in contravention of a waste management licence.
Rod Gould, the Agency officer who coordinated the four-year investigation, said: "Mr Gibson systematically used the companies he managed to commit widespread environmental and corporate offences over a prolonged period and a wide area. These crimes were committed for pure financial gain, undermining legitimate business and with absolutely no regard for the public."
Some of Gibson’s previous activities formed part of an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatchesprogramme and the Guardiannewspaper in April 2000 (ENDS Report 303, pp 22-23 and p 24 ). Mr Gibson received a suspended sentence in March 1999 for importing more than three times the approved amount of waste to a golf course development in contempt of a high court injunction.