Defra publishes annual fly-tipping statistics for England, with the most recent publication detailing the number of fly-tipping incidents reported by local authorities in 2018/19 published on 7 November 2019. The statistics show that incidents of fly-tipping have shown gradual increases over the last five years, albeit with a decrease reported between 2016/17 and 2017/18. The 2018/19 figures reported an increase of 8% from 2017/18. This most recent increase in recorded incidents does not, however, necessarily mean the number of fly-tipping incidents has increased. Local authorities have reported that as they make it easier for citizens to report fly-tipping, for example through mobile apps, they see an increase in the number of incidents recorded.
Local authorities have a range of powers available to tackle fly-tipping. These include the power to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) of up to £400 for fly-tipping offences, including to those caught fly-tipping and householders who pass their waste to a fly-tipper. Local authorities also have enhanced powers to search and seize vehicles of suspected fly-tippers. Powers to issue FPNs provide local authorities with an efficient mechanism to hold fly-tipping perpetrators to account without having to go to court, which can be a time-consuming, resource-intensive and expensive process. Additionally, the ability to issue FPNs can deter potential fly-tippers from fly-tipping in the first place.
Local authorities also have the ability to take those accused of fly-tipping to court. If a fly-tipper is convicted, the offence is punishable by up to £50,000 or 12 months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates' Court. The offence can attract an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment if convicted in a Crown Court. Defra has already worked with the Sentencing Council to amend sentencing guidance for magistrates to ensure that they are aware of local fixed penalty levels for these offences. The Resources and Waste Strategy published in December 2018 includes a number of commitments to improve this, including working with the Sentencing Council to increase magistrates’ awareness of the prevalence and importance of waste crime, helping local authorities improve the quality of cases, and ensuring the Environmental Offences Definitive guideline is kept up to date and magistrates are effectively trained on it.
Recent figures showed that there were 76,000 fixed penalty notices issued by Local Authorities in 2018/19, up by 11% from 2017/18. Prosecution outcome figures from 2018/19 also showed that the value of total fines increased by 29% to £1,090,000.