Directors' liability for environmental offences

The spectre of directors being disqualified from office where their company has committed an environmental offence has been raised in a recent Crown Court decision. The decision has particularly important implications for small and medium-sized companies, where individual managing directors may be the driving force behind operations.

As a matter of principle, companies can be found guilty of criminal offences under UK law even though they are artificial entities. Where the legal definition of the offence requires some element of intent to be present, the courts have held that if the company is to be held liable then this intent must be in the minds of a director, manager or other senior officer who can legitimately be described as the "mind" of the company.

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