Thursday, 10 April 2014

Harsher penalties are introduced for those who knowingly contravene WEEE regulations

Following new guidelines created by the Sentencing Council (SC) of England and Wales, judges could soon impose harsher sentences and fines to both companies and individuals who are convicted of environmental crimes such as fly tipping and pollution.These new guidelines, which will come into effect on 1st July 2014, mean businesses now risk up to £3 million fines for incorrect, unsafe mercury lamp disposal.

This is the first time the SC has produced guidelines for these types of offences; their creation is due to magistrates' lack of familiarity with sentencing for these offences, a lack of standardised sentencing among magistrates and low fines which do not reflect the seriousness of the offences committed. The new guidelines are likely to lead to much larger fines for serious offenders.

A variety of offences related to the disposal of waste covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 are covered by these new guidelines. The new guidelines also apply to the highest offence category, hazardous chemicals. Waste fluorescent lamps are classified as hazardous and so all those collecting or transporting waste lamps must adhere to WEEE regulations. When these guidelines come into effect, the risk to any individual or company who knowingly fly tips or disposes of waste lamps inappropriately will be much higher!

As of 1st July, companies and individuals who knowingly break the law will face much stiffer penalties than those who break the law despite attempting to adhere to WEEE regulations. The largest recommended fine is a staggering £3 million, this will be imposed on large businesses who knowingly contravene the law; individuals caught doing so could face prison sentences of up to three years.

Speaking of the guidance, SC member and magistrate Katharine Rainsford said: "Illegal disposal of hazardous waste not only causes damage to the environment but puts peoples' health at risk as well. This guidance from the courts will help ensure consistent and appropriate sentences for offenders. These crimes are normally about making or saving money at the expense of the taxpayer. They also undermine law-abiding businesses in the waste management industry who are contributing to economic growth. The guideline aims to ensure that sentences hit offenders in their pocket."