Council loses waste case

Camden Council has lost its case against a company it argued had been illegally leaving waste in a public highway.

Camden London Borough Council v Mortgage Times Group Ltd

Before the High Court of Justice on 3 July 2006, an appeal, brought by the Camden London Borough Council, was dismissed.

The case arose following a hearing on 24 February 2006 before Highbury Corner Magistrates Court, in which the case brought against Mortgage Times Group Ltd regarding three alleged offences under section 34(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA 1990) was dismissed.

Section 34(1)(b) of the EPA 1990 states that it shall be the duty of any person who imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats, or disposes of controlled waste, or as a broker has control of such waste, to take all such measures applicable to him in that capacity as are reasonable in the circumstances to prevent the escape of the waste from his control and that of any other person.

The appellants alleged that Mortgage Times Group Ltd, as a producer of controlled waste, had failed to take all such measures as were reasonable to prevent the escape of controlled waste from its control, in that by depositing waste and leaving this unattended on the public highway, this comprised the "escape".

While the justices found that there had been no "escape" of the waste in question within the meaning of section 34(1) of the Act, the Appellants argued that the real issue was that by depositing the waste on the highway a significant period of time before collection was due to take place, Mortgage Times Group Ltd had materially increased the risk of an escape of that waste, and had accordingly failed to take reasonable measures to prevent that escape.

The High Court agreed that the offence under section 34(6) is the failure to take reasonable measures as required by the duty imposed under section 34(1). The prosecution therefore should have established that there had been a failure to exercise the statutory duty of care rather than seeking to establish that an "escape" had taken place.

However, rather than remit the case to the justices to consider the correct question, the High Court dismissed the appeal since the justices gave the correct answer to the case that was presented to them.

Details of the case can be found here.

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