POCA ‘more effective’ than prison for waste crime

The Environment Agency's use of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) is often a more effective deterrent for serious waste criminals than a conviction or sentence.

Speaking exclusively to edie, Environment Agency head of waste & illegals Mat Crocker said that POCA was proving to be a very effective tool and was helping to take “the profit out of crime”.

POCA allows a court to deprive convicted offenders of the assets they’ve gained from criminal activities. As waste criminals are motivated by profit or a desire to avoid paying the costs of operating legally, removing an individual’s profits can prevent them from continuing to operate, Crocker explained.

The Environment Agency is moving to a more intelligence-led approach to target individuals and gangs that are intent on breaking the law. Its new taskforce, launched in December 2011, is specifically targeting illegally operating waste sites in England and Wales.

The taskforce includes former police detectives who work closely with enforcement partners to gather intelligence and act quickly to close illegal waste sites. In 2011-12, the agency stopped 759 illegal waste sites, either by closing them down or helping them to move into legal compliance and getting the correct permit or exemption to operate.

The agency’s recent Cracking down on waste crime report underlines the importance of intelligence sharing between enforcement bodies such as local authorities, the police and customs & excise.

Crocker told edie: “It is money that drives the illegal waste business and many of the criminals we come across are involved in other criminal activity.

“By sharing intelligence and pulling the information together, we can identify the illegal waste sites and operations.”

He added that local authorities could help by monitoring their own civic amenity sites and ensuring the waste operators managed these sites correctly.

Councils should also ensure they know what happens to their own business waste by checking the credentials of the waste disposal contractors they use. More importantly, they are being urged to pay attention to the fate of all waste that they manage.

“It’s not in the local authorities’ interest to let this waste get into the hands of criminals,” Crocker said. “A lot of waste crimes end up on the council’s door because it impacts on communities and businesses.”

He also called on local authorities to build their knowledge of waste crime in their local area and to share information and intelligence with the agency to help shut down more illegal waste sites.

Nick Warburton

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