COMMONS

Environmental Offences Guideline: Consultation report published

19 July 2013

The Committee’s report Environmental Offences Guideline: Consultation examines proposed sentencing guidelines on Environmental Offences published by the Sentencing Council.

The range of activities and offenders covered by the draft Guideline is very wide, from multi-national companies to individuals who have engaged in fly-tipping. The core offences are those under section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and regulations 1 and 38 of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010, which cover unauthorised or harmful deposit, treatment or disposal, etc of waste and illegal discharges to air, land and water. The draft guideline also covers analogous, but less frequently committed, offences.

The Chair of the Committee, Sir Alan Beith MP, said:

This draft Guideline covers a wide range of offences ranging from fly-tipping to large scale hazardous waste offences, and the sentences appropriate for individuals may be quite different from those appropriate for a large company. Although there was a case for treating some of these issues separately, there was a clear desire from magistrates to have a framework of guidance. Crimes that damage the environment and endanger public safety are taken seriously by the courts and I hope that the final version of the Guideline will assist them in doing so.

In its letter to the Sentencing Council the Committee –

  • concluded that the Guideline for Environmental Offences could well be taken as guidance for other crimes such as health and safety offences. This "leakage" from the final Guideline into sentencing practice in relation to non-Guideline offences is likely. The Committee concluded that "leakage" could be more transparent, particularly where individuals without legal representation are being sentenced;
  • considered that in respect of corporate offenders, although a company’s turnover can be taken as the starting point for the categorisation on which sentence tariffs are based, other financial information would need to be taken into account in appropriate cases;
  • suggested that a short glossary of basic financial terms, and the inclusion either in the final Guideline or in other guidance of some mock financial documents with a worked example would assist sentencers, in particular magistrates, who may be unfamiliar with financial information;
  • recommended that for some offence categories the sentence starting point of 12 weeks custody for individuals should be reduced

Background

The Committee is a statutory consultee in relation to draft sentencing Guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council for England and Wales. The Committee’s views on this draft Guideline were informed by a seminar which it held with relevant organisations, and are set out in a letter to the Chairman of the Sentencing Council, Lord Justice Leveson, which is annexed to the Report. Also appended to the report are letters received from the Chairs of the Environmental Audit and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committees regarding the harm factors used in the draft Guideline.

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