Repeat waste offender convicted for the fourth time for environmental offences
A waste criminal who took an estimated 26,000 cubic metres of waste to an airfield in the West Midlands to be dumped, buried or burned illegally has been jailed for 26 months. The waste, which consisted mainly of construction and demolition materials, included aluminum products classified as hazardous.
In this case brought by the Environment Agency (EA), John Bruce was sentenced for six charges in relation to unpermitted waste activity at Ridgeway Park Farm, Throckmorton Airfield in Worcestershire.
Bruce, who has been convicted of environmental offences on three occasions in the past, trades as UK Plant Services and operated under a fraudulent waste carriers registration number. Heavy goods vehicles and articulated tippers removed waste from construction sites and permitted waste sites around the West Midlands, depositing it at the farm before disposing of it on an industrial scale.
Several high-risk fires were reported during this illegal operation, negatively impacting on local residents, endangering health, and causing air pollution. Following complaints from numerous local residents, EA officers met with Bruce on a number of occasions, conducting site inspections and enforcing environmental regulations.
After finding evidence that burning had been taking place on the site, warnings were issued. However, despite these warnings and efforts to work with Bruce, all enforcement actions were ignored.
‘A blatant disregard for the environment and local community’
Bruce was previously convicted of environmental offences in 2002, 2007 and 2016 and was jailed on the first two of those occasions. The most recent offences therefore represent a continuation of his efforts to make money by carrying out illegal activities relating to waste disposal, at the cost of the environment and other people’s quality of life.
When sentencing, the judge commented that this was a serious environmental offence and that there was a clear need for a deterrent sentence, although consideration was given for pleading guilty and avoiding a full trial.
An EA officer in charge of the investigation said: “Mr Bruce has shown a blatant disregard for the environment and local community, subjecting local residents to months of misery by bringing on large quantities of waste and burning it on the site. John Bruce operated a sustained large scale illegal waste site at his farm. He imported, burned, buried and spread unsuitable polluting waste, causing pollution to the land and air, harm to the cattle and significant harm and disruption to local residents and businesses.
“Waste crime can cause serious pollution to the environment put communities at risk and undermines legitimate business and the investment and economic growth that go with it. The EA will use all its enforcement powers, where we believe environmental offences have been committed. In cases where we believe monies have been unlawfully gained, we will investigate under the proceeds of crime act and confiscate assets.”
New waste crime powers
This latest conviction comes soon after tough new sanctions against waste criminals were introduced. New EA waste crime powers came into force on 29 March this year, which include providing waste enforcement officers with body cameras to tackle incidents of abuse, and giving them the power to block access to illegal sites and force operators to clear waste.
In November last year, the government pledged an extra £30 million to tackle waste crime, after the Environmental Services Associated (ESA) estimated that in 2015 such crimes cost the economy at least £604 million.
A similar conviction occurred in February this year, when landowner Eric Hale, of Bank Top Farm near Frodsham, pleaded guilty to turning his Cheshire farm into an illegal landfill and received a 12-month jail term, suspended for two years. The EA found that Hale had been dumping tens of thousands of tonnes of waste on his land without the appropriate environmental permit. His waste removal company, Eric Hale Skip Hire, had been using the 19-acre farm to dispose of the majority of its waste material to avoid paying for the use of a legitimate site.
To report waste crime call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.