At the beginning of the month Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) were introduced as part of a new arsenal of tools which can be used to fight environmental crime.

While in the past the EA found itself powerless to stop criminal activity until the end of often-protracted court proceedings, ASBOs, a range of spot fines and other powers now mean the agency and local authorities can now take more rapid action.

The ASBO can set out strict conditions perpetrators must abide by, such as restricting the areas people can visit or times they can use a site, to ensure that communities are protected from those who simply do not care for the surroundings that we live in.

While local authorities will still take action to deal with small scale localised incidents to discourage those dumping rotting sofas, mouldy mattresses or similar annoyances in the street, the EA has bigger fish to fry.

“Our focus is on the big, bad or nasty end of waste crimes,” said a spokesperson for the agency.

“These include large-scale fly-tipping, illegally operating sites, incidents involving organised crime or certain hazardous wastes that could pose the greatest threat to the environment and human health.

“These new powers are crucial in the battle to crack down and catch individuals who have no regard for our health and environment – far too many people and businesses are prepared to simply dump their waste and pollute the environment – costing industry and taxpayers millions.

“Now it will be possible for the Environment Agency to take rapid action to stop anti-social behaviour that harms the environment – in cases where an activity is causing harassment, alarm or distress to the community.”

ASBOs may be applied if to cover a wide variety of waste crimes, such as a business is parking lorries loaded with waste close to houses, attracting skip-lorries that come and go late at night, leaving skips uncovered so they attract vermin, burning rubbish that creates stinking clouds of smoke or banning known fly tippers from entering a certain area or going out at night.

The EA deals with thousands of cases annually, of which over 200 lead to prosecutions.

In the last three months alone convictions include an eight-month prison sentence and £4,000 in costs for a man who was burning hazardous materials such as paint, asbestos and car batteries and £60,000 in fines and costs for a company that was running an illegal landfill site.

Maximum penalties for waste criminals under the new legislation include prison sentences of up to five years.

Sam Bond

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