Corporate entertainment ends in £124,000 fine

IT company Zycko, based in Cirencester, has been fined £124,000 after holding a corporate party which included a bonfire of old cars. The firm was charged with four counts of breaching waste legislation.

Zycko laid on an entertainment event in September 2005 on land at Ladyswood, Wiltshire, owned by chairman Rory Sweet. A race of some 50-60 old cars ended in 12 of them being piled up with bales of straw and set ablaze.

The pyre produced a plume of black smoke which was visible for miles around and engulfed Sherston village, near Malmesbury.

The fire brigade decided it would be too difficult to extinguish the blaze. An Environment Agency officer attending agreed that most of the hazardous material, such as tyres and plastics, had already burned and there was little benefit in tackling the fire.

The company had hosted a similar event in August 2004, during which one guest was overcome by smoke and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance. North Wiltshire District Council served an abatement notice to prevent further fires, but Zycko had ignored it.

The Agency pressed four charges under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Zycko pleaded guilty before North West Wiltshire magistrates and was fined £124,000 in total and ordered to pay £4,150 in costs.

The fines included £40,000 for each of three offences: depositing waste on land without a waste licence, contrary to section 33(1)(a) of the 1990 Act; keeping or disposing waste on land without a licence, contrary to section 33(1)(b)(i); and disposing of waste in a way likely to harm the environment or human health, contrary to section 33(1)(c). It was also fined £4,000 for the duty of care offence of failing to prevent others from breaching waste laws, contrary to section 34 (1)(a).

Each fine was 80% of the maximum, reflecting that it was a second offence and that an abatement notice had been ignored.

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