Environmental permits and confiscation implications
Brother and sister Mark and Rachel Penfold were directors of a waste management company. In February 2016 an employee of the business suffered a serious injury when his arm was caught in a conveyer he was operating whilst at work. The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted the company and both individuals under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).
The company was fined £120,000 and Mark and Rachel Penfold were both sentenced to 16 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for nine months, alongside a fine of £2,293 each. The prosecution’s costs for bringing the proceedings, amounting to just over £3,500, were also awarded.
The pair then came to the attention of the Environment Agency (“EA”) who, in April 2019, successfully prosecuted them for the illegal stockpiling of waste. They were fined £5,000 and required to pay over £27,000 in compensation for the land owner’s waste clearance costs. They were also ordered to pay the EA’s prosecution costs, amounting to £4,778.25.
In January 2020 the Penfolds found themselves before the courts again. Following investigations by the EA, it was found that the business was not complying with the conditions attached to their environmental permit and waste was being stored on the site illegally. Enforcement notices were served but not adhered to. A prosecution commenced and the pair pleaded guilty to five charges of failing to comply with environmental permit conditions and enforcement notices. They were fined a total of £1,500 and ordered to pay the prosecution’s costs, which were in excess of £32,000, for bringing the proceedings.
An application to disqualify the two as directors under section 2 of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 was successfully made, banning them both from becoming company directors for three years.
This case shows how companies operating within the waste industry sphere need to be mindful of their obligations under the health and safety and environmental legislation. The scrutiny on businesses by regulators responsible for enforcing compliance will only increase with the new task force announced this year. Companies and directors should therefore recognise benefits in engaging with regulators and embrace the opportunities afforded by enforcement notices. If they are missed, it can not only have very costly repercussions but also, through the use of disqualification orders, threaten the future viability of the business as a whole.
For further information on the issues raised in this blog post, please contact a member of our criminal litigation team.
Sophie Wood is a Senior Associate with extensive experience in advising corporate and individual clients involved in a wide range of internal, criminal and regulatory investigations. Sophie has acted for individuals and companies involved in investigations brought by the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and local authorities, and is a member of the firm’s cross-practice Health, Safety and Environment Group.
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