An estimated 250,000 tonnes of waste are illegally dumped in Northern Ireland each year, including some waste smuggled over the border from the Irish Republic by criminal gangs.
The Province's local authorities struggled with their waste management licensing duties until they were transferred to the Environment and Heritage Service at the end of 2003. Similarly, responsibility for transfrontier waste shipments was assumed by the EHS earlier this year.
The EHS quickly established a special team to tackle fly-tipping and cross-border dumping, but suffered from staff shortages. It is also seeking new powers to arrest lorry drivers, detain vehicles and fast-track cases to court so that vehicles could be sold off if someone refuses to pay for the removal of dumped waste.
The first sign of success was the £22,000 fine handed down earlier this year to the operator of an illegal landfill. At the time, the fine was a record in Northern Ireland for an environmental offence.
However, in September the Northern Ireland administration announced that a man was fined an unprecedented £50,000 by Magherafelt magistrates after admitting five waste offences.
The offences were: two counts of keeping waste at an unlicensed site, one of knowingly permitting the deposit of waste at an unlicensed site and two counts of keeping waste in a manner that is likely to cause pollution or harm to human health. The charges were brought under articles 4(1)(a), (b) and (c) of the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997.
The court heard that Simon Loughran - who did not appear in court - had allowed construction and demolition waste and tyres to be dumped on his property near Cookstown, County Tyrone. The exact amount is not known, but is described by the EHS as "significant". Some of the waste had come from the south Dublin area.
Mr Loughran was fined £10,000 for each of the five offences. The fine is not only a record for an environmental offence in Northern Ireland but is also large by British standards.
The EHS said that the case was the first significant dossier involving cross-border dumping to come before the Northern Ireland courts. Most are destined for the Crown courts, with nine "in the pipeline" and one due for a re-trial this winter.