Development of new Guideline on Environmental Offences

The Sentencing Council has commenced work on a draft guideline on environmental offences with a full consultation planned in the New Year (2013).

The background to this work is that just over 5,500 sentences were given for waste-related offences under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007 in 2010. This figure is comparatively small number compared to the volumes of other offences, it is still sizeable.

In particular, illegal dumping of waste, more commonly known as fly tipping, is a problem which is estimated to have cost local authorities more than £45 million to clear up in 2009/10.

The current Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines contains some guidance on sentencing for environmental offences within the explanatory material section (Page 180) and the Magistrates’ Association have published Costing the Earth: guidance for sentencers, a handbook for a wide range of environmental sentencing issues.

However, interested parties have raised concerns to the Sentencing Council about consistency in sentencing, and difficulties particularly in calculating fines for organisations. Within the same reference year (2010), 4,642 individuals were sentenced compared to only 134 organisations.

The relative infrequency with which cases are sentenced where the offender is an organisation means that the majority of sentencers have a lack of familiarity with such cases and offenders and, therefore, the need for improved sentencing guidance in this area.

It is rewarding to see that the Sentencing Council have taken this issue on-board as there has been increasing recognition that there needs to be a single consistent approach in one guideline for a range of environmental offences including waste offences. I shall post further information on this developing issues in early 2013.

Copies of the current guidelines: Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines can be found at & Costing the Earth: guidance for sentencers published by the Magistrates’ Association can be found at:

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