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The need for Sentencing Guidelines for environmental crimes – Part 2 

8 February 2017

Last week’s blog focused on the Sentencing Guidelines for environmental crimes. They were introduced in 2014 to ensure that courts in England and Wales take a more consistent approach when dealing with environmental offences.


Since the introduction of the Sentencing Guidelines, the average fine has shot up from just under £40,000 to more than £70,000. Here are a few hints and tips so you – or your company – can avoid committing an environmental offence or getting a hefty fine…


Tip 1: Be informed

Whether you are an individual or in a position of responsibility at a company, when it comes to disposing of waste you need to know the answers to the following questions:

  • Who is involved in managing the environmental issues in your business?
  • Do you know what your liabilities are?
  • Do you get the environmental information you need?
  • How do you get this information?


Tip 2: Stay on top of your compliance

Once you have all the information mentioned above, ensure you stay on top of your environmental compliance – especially when it comes to your environmental permits. The majority of cases sentenced in 2015 (67%) were for offences relating to contraventions of environmental permits, with 74% of companies sentenced in magistrates’ courts.


Tip 3: Be aware of your practices

The Sentencing Guidelines deal with major environmental crimes such as fly tipping and river pollution, but it also covers ‘nuisance’ offenders. So if your working methods produce noise, smoke, dust or smells, you could be fined – even if you don’t realise you are committing an offence. To avoid this, review your business practices and check to see if you’re liable.


Tip 4: Be honest and proactive

If you are concerned you may have breached your environmental permit or damaged the environment, consciously or otherwise, get in touch with the Environment Agency immediately to explain what has happened. It will be better if you are proactive and take expert advice from a lawyer.


Tip 5: Stop offending

This may sound like an obvious tip, but re-offending does happen. Trying to save money by committing an environmental offence won’t work – you could be fined a huge amount and your business activities could even be suspended. If you have offended, take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If it was an accident, put the necessary changes in place to prevent reoccurance.


Tip 6: Remediate the damage

In some case, part of the sentence for an environmental crime is to remediate the damage you have caused. If remediation is ordered by the court, take the time to draw up an action plan as soon as possible, then you can get your business back up and running as normal. Even if remediation hasn’t been ordered by the court, the local community and any people affected by your offence can only appreciate efforts from you to make things right.

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