As outlined in an earlier article, new proposals aimed at bringing greater consistency to how the courts in England and Wales deal with environmental crimes have been issued by the Sentencing Council.
The draft sentencing guidelines, which could result in larger fines for serious offenders, aim to provide clear guidance on sentencing environmental offences, and ensure that the penalties handed down to offenders match the seriousness of the breach and provide a strong deterrent.
The Sentencing Council is proposing that magistrates make greater use of the highest levels of fines available to them, which would likely increase fines for those that cause the most damage, or risk to health.
For less serious offences, it is not expected that fines will rise from current levels, and the overall proportions of offenders receiving the various types of sentence, such as fines, community sentences, discharges and imprisonment, are unlikely to change.
The draft guidelines cover a wide variety of offences relating to the disposal of waste and rubbish, mostly covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. They include fly-tipping and offences whereby a company or individuals have not handled, or disposed of waste properly. Other areas covered include nuisance offenders who cause noise, smoke, dust or smells, or who run premises that pose a health, or pollution risk.
The Sentencing Council is seeking views from the public, those working in the criminal justice system, and environmental professionals.
The consultation, which runs until 6 June 2013, can be found at http://bit.ly/ZiqHlf