Waste operator speaks out after being lumped with £18,000 court costs for £1,000 fine case

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Barry Patchett, a waste operator from Tetney, has been fined £1,000 and ordered to pay more than £18,000 in costs for running an illegal site.

Patchett, aged 53, failed to apply for the right permits despite advice and guidance from the Environment Agency in 2010 and 2013.

Mr Richard Banwell, prosecuting for the Agency, told Lincoln Magistrates’ Court last Wednesday, that no application had ever been received and several failed attempts were made by officers to carry out a full site inspection.

In the end a forced entry was made in September 2013 with the assistance of Lincolnshire Police.

Officers found more than 9,000 tonnes of waste on the land at Tetney Lock Road, New Delights, Tetney, including demolition materials and green waste.

Patchett, of Firebeacon Lane, Wragholme, and his company, BJ Patchett & Sons Ltd, were asked to attend an interview but they declined. The company had gone into liquidation.

Early this year (February 2014) it appeared that more waste had been deposited at the entrance and a rubble pile had grown.

Mr Banwell said: “The offence was committed over several months and it was financially motivated because the waste operation was part of his business. Mr Patchett also failed to respond to advice or to clear the site.”

Patchett had pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing but changed his plea to guilty on the first day of a three-day trial. Mitigating for Patchett, Mr John Wyn Williams said that Patchett had been confused by environmental regulations, which are complex.”

In sentencing, District Judge Stobart said it was not a case deserving the severest penalty. Patchett may have given too little time and thought to the requirements but he knew he had to make changes in order to keep his waste site running.

Following the sentencing guideline for environmental offences, and taking into account Mr Patchett’s means, DJ Stobart fined him £1,000 and ordered him to pay full prosecution costs of £18,334.

John Wyn Williams appeared on behalf of Barry Patchett.

On a previous occasion the Environment Agency had stated that the case had a starting point of 12 months custody according to new Guidelines introduced this year.

John Wyn Williams pointed out that in the transitional provisions under the regulations an old exemption registered by his client was extant for much of the time alleged in the summons. Following discussions with Prosecuting Counsel for the Agency it was accepted that the relevant date was the later date which allowed John to place the offence in a lower bracket within the guidelines.

After the hearing Mr Patchett was relieved that the Court accepted John submissions and did not impose a custodial sentence.

Commenting on the case John Wyn Williams said this case shows how early advice in complex regulatory offences can help the client. He added: ”Even the Agency got it wrong this time.”

This week, Mr Patchett said: “The Environment Agency has been aware of our operations at Tetney Lock since 2001. These had been carried out quite legitimately under exemptions issued by them.

“Prior to the court hearing we have registered a number of exemptions with the Environment Agency and we have recently written to them seeking clarification on some points so we can submit the application for an environmental permit.

“The Environment Agency In my opinion all too often adopts an over-zealous policy in respect of regulatory compliance, enforcement and or prosecution with small operators within the industry. Many of these prosecutions like mine are for “technical breaches” of site licensing or permitting. Very few transgress into detrimental impacts on the environment.

“The fine was £1,000, and I think this is fair and supports my statement above and the view of the judge that the case didn’t deserve the severest penalty.

“Regarding the Environment Agency’s Cost I find these to be quite excessive I have observed other similar cases by the agency, that appear to require the same level of resource to prosecute yet they are only half the amount of those lodged against me.”