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COPFS

£53,000 Fine and First Confiscation Order for Environmental Offending

At Duns Sheriff Court today, David Cochrane (Duns) Ltd, a scrap metal business, was fined a total of £53,000 for illegally keeping and treating waste for 14 years and for failing to remove a quantity of mixed waste metals, liquid waste, tyres and batteries after being required to do so by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

As well as one of the most significant fines for such offending, the case also resulted in the first confiscation order to be made under Proceeds of Crime legislation for an environmental offence.

A Confiscation Order for £41,131 in terms of the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995 was made against the company on 8 May 2013.

The offences took place at Cheeklaw Works, Station Road, Duns where the company dealt in the recovery and treatment of scrap metal as well as other waste such as tyres and batteries.

SEPA had continually advised the company that an impermeable pavement with sealed drainage was required at the site for their business but nothing was ever put in place.

Impermeable surfaces are required for the storage and sorting of scrap, liquid waste and batteries to avoid the risk of any liquids from the waste soaking into the soil and groundwater and contaminating the water environment.

When SEPA required the removal of the waste through an enforcement notice in November 2011, this was not complied with by the deadline given of 30 June 2012. The waste was eventually all removed by October 2012.

The financial history of the company was carefully assessed by financial investigators and accountants in the Serious and Organised Crime Division of the Crown Office which led to the Confiscation Order being made on 8 May 2013. The Confiscation Order represents the full benefit that the company made from failing to comply with the legislation and fees they avoided by failing to obtain a full waste management licence.

Craig Harris, Procurator Fiscal, Wildlife and Environment said:

"This company was operating on a site that they had refused to make fit for purpose at the expense of the local environment.

"This investigation and prosecution was a result of excellent partnership working between SEPA, Police Scotland and specialist prosecutors from both the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit and the Serious and Organised Crime Division.

"The Confiscation Order made in this case represents a highly significant step forward in the fight against environmental crime.

"Both the Order and the sentence imposed send a clear message to those who do not comply with our environmental laws. They will not profit from failing in their duty to Scotland's heritage."

Further Reading

1. David Cochrane Duns Ltd was convicted of the offences on 30 January 2013, namely two contraventions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990:

Charge 1: Section 33(1)(b)(i) - keeping and treating controlled waste on land without a licence between 1 June 1998 and 1 November 2012 – fined £20,000 (reduced from £30,000 as a result of the plea of guilty)

Charge 2: Section 59(1)(a) and (b) and Section 59 (5) – on 1 July 2012 failure to comply with a requirement to remove waste having been given notice to do so – fined £33,000 (reduced from £50,000 as a result of the plea of guilty)

2. The legal keeping and treatment of waste requires the authority of a waste management licence, as regulated by SEPA under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The objective of the waste management licensing system is to ensure that waste management facilities do not cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health or become seriously detrimental to the amenities of the locality.

3. In relation to certain activities, an individual does not require a full licence but instead can operate under the authority of an exemption provided by the licensing regime.  However, certain criteria and conditions as dictated by the terms of the exemption must be adhered to for such operation to be legal.

4. The recovery of scrap metal or the dismantling of de- polluted motor vehicles can operate under an exemption but, under the conditions of the exemption in this case, recovery activities had to take place on an impermeable surface served by a sealed drainage system. That is a drainage system that will ensure that all liquids and oils found within scrap metals and released as a result of operations at the site are collected and disposed of legally and environmentally preventing them from draining freely into the soil and contaminating the local environment and watercourses.

5. A Confiscation Order is an order made by the court following criminal conviction, to pay a fixed sum of money from the proceeds of crime. An application for confiscation is one of the tools at the disposal of the Crown under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995.

6. The Serious and Organised Crime Division works together with colleagues at the Civil Recovery Unit, and other law enforcement agencies, such as UK Police Forces, HM Revenue and Customs and Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to identify and recover the proceeds of crime.

7. Proceeds of Crime legislation is also used by the Civil Recovery Unit acting on behalf of Scottish Ministers. The Civil Recovery Unit investigates and recovers the property realised through criminal activity of individuals, in the civil courts without the need for criminal conviction.

8. Since 2003, the use of the Proceeds of Crime Act in Scotland has allowed over £80million to be recovered from criminals. Money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act is invested by Scottish Ministers. Over £50m of these proceeds have been put to excellent use by investing in a wide range of sporting, cultural, educational and mentoring activities for children and young people through the CashBack for Communities programme. Since the programme's inception in 2007, over 600,000 young people across Scotland have benefited. Details can be found at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/cashback

9. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is a committed member of the Scottish Government's Serious Organised Crime Task Force. The Task Force has a remit to pursue serious organised crime in all its forms by bringing together all agencies involved in tackling organised crime groups. Task Force members include the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, the Lord Advocate, representatives from COPFS, the Scottish Government, Police Scotland, HMRC, SOCA and SPS. Details of the work of the Taskforce can be accessed here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/crimes/organised-crime.

10. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is also a committed member of the Scottish Government’s Environmental Crime Task Force.  The Task Force was created in recognition that criminal activities have a significant impact on the environment, the economy and society and that the most effective way to tackle environmental crime is by building on existing partnership working between those responsible for tackling environmental crime.  The Task Force has a remit of supporting delivery of the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling environmental crime.  It is chaired by SEPA and members include representatives from the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit within COPFS, the Police Service of Scotland, the Scottish Government and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (UK).  Details of the work of the Taskforce can be accessed here:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Environment/waste-and-pollution/environmental-crime-taskforce

11. Today is World Environment Day. World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. World Environment Day activities take place all year round and climax on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere.

http://www.unep.org/wed/about/