The Environment Agency may not immediately spring to mind as a proactive government department in terms of prosecution and enforcement, but a recent case highlights its willingness to take action.

A Doncaster-based car scrappage firm, Motorhog Ltd, had been issued with a permit to depollute and bale end-of-life vehicles. Agency officers had visited the site, notifying the company that it had breached its permit in more than one instance, and stipulating what it needed to do to put things right. This included cleaning all of the spillages seen on site, as well as keeping appropriate records.

Despite being given the opportunity to take the necessary remedial action, the company failed to act on the Agency’s requests, hence the prosecution.

The company were fined £20,000 at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, as well as being ordered to pay £4,936.88 in costs. A spokesperson for the Environment Agency was quoted as saying that they ‘will not hesitate to take action against any operator that repeatedly breaks the law and disregards its environmental obligations.’

The Agency is empowered not only to bring criminal (and civil) actions, but to recover the costs of doing so (as well as the costs of any necessary remedial action.) Criminal sanctions are varied, ranging from fixed penalty notices and formal cautions to full prosecutions.

If action is brought against a company, the consequences can be numerous and far-reaching. Reputational damage can result from adverse coverage, with more and more cases being publicised- as seen here. Companies can be fined, as Motorhog were, and directors even imprisoned in the most serious cases.

Restrictions can also be imposed upon a licence or permit, which therefore impact upon the day to day running of the business. Another recent trend reported in the press last year was that of enforcement undertakings, which the Agency can offer as an alternative to prosecution. 26 companies involved in incidents of pollution were fined over £1.5m in 2016 alone.

If you have any questions relating to the content of this article, please contact Ison Harrison, on 0113 284 5000. Ison Harrison has experience of handling cases for both companies and individuals, and is happy to offer initial advice as well as full representation.

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