A jury at the Old Bailey returned unanimous guilty verdicts against the pair in late 2018, following a trail that ran on for five weeks. The sentencing was delayed due to an unsuccessful appeal, which was resolved last year.
Finbar Francis Breslin, now resident in Donegal, was found to have caused Prime Biomass Ltd to operate a regulated facility without a permit, through his consent, connivance or neglect in the offence, contrary to regulation 41(1) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016. Judge Bate said that he had been the front man for the operation, handing down a two-year conditional discharge and a five year director’s disqualification order.
Mehmet Mustafa, of Basildon, was found to have committed the same offence. He was handed a £4,000 fine, a compensation order of £30,000 and told to pay costs of £16,000.
A third director, Adrian Hennessy, was acquitted by majority verdict.
The three were prosecuted by the Environment Agency (EA) for storing and treating waste wood beyond the limit set under the T6 permitting exemption that they had used. Their business caused “substantial dust contamination” and presented a fire risk, according to a statement by the regulator. The costs of clearing the waste were passed on to the landowner when the site was abandoned.
They had contracted with an undisclosed Swedish company to export the wood, via a site at an industrial estate in Rainham, Essex.
The exemption was registered by Mustafa in January 2013, allowing Prime Biomass to chip, shred, cut and pulverise waste wood. It was restricted to holding or treating no more than 500 tonnes of material over any seven day period.
However, that September Breslin admitted to EA officers that 1,200 tonnes of waste was being stored. Although an agreement was reached to rectify the situation, it was not met – and the quantity appeared to have risen when officers later attended.
By February 2014, the company was in liquidation and the directors abandoned the site. The waste remained there until late 2018, when it was sold for redevelopment. It is now a housing estate.
EA case officer Ruth Shaw said: “We visited the site on numerous occasions but the defendants continued to ignore our advice on how to comply with their exemption and run a site within the rules. Further visits to the site revealed an increase in illegal activity with even more waste on site, causing a serious fire risk and dust nuisance to the neighbouring community.
“Their actions showed blatant disregard for local residents and businesses, and put the environment and local amenity at risk. Waste crime can undermine legitimate businesses, so we work closely with businesses to help them comply with the law.”