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No deterrent: ‘Joke’ fines for fly tippers slammed

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With unlimited fines available, offenders ‘getting away’ with £140 penalties

People prosecuted for fly tipping are getting off with paltry fines that don’t act as a deterrent.

That’s the opinion of a national waste management company that sees offenders being fined as little as £140 for dumping rubbish in beauty spots or in the street.

The company say that courts aren’t exercising the far steeper penalties available to them, which means that rogue tradesmen and private individuals alike consider fly tipping to be an acceptable risk.

“We’ve spoken to people who admit to fly tipping, and that’s exactly what they tell us,” says spokesperson Mark Hall. “Fines are so low, they’re prepared to dump their mess in public and leave it to the taxpayer to foot the bill.”

“And when rogue tradesmen think it’s OK to dump hazardous waste because they think they won’t be caught, it turns from being an eyesore to a public health nightmare. It’s got to stop.” points to a typical local news story, which it says is just the tip of the iceberg – the case of a man fined just £140 for dumping rubbish at Fleet Pond, a Hampshire beauty spot.
While council bosses praised the rare conviction, the group which maintains the pond said that dumping is a regular occurrence but the culprits are rarely caught. “Given the cost of clearing away the mess they leave, fines should be nearer to the maximum,” they told local reporters. The local council – Hart – says they budget £30,000 per year to clean up after fly tippers.
And it’s a sentiment that’s echoed by local residents: “I walk my dog here,” says Alex Craig, “And these people use the car park and the lakeside as their own rubbish tip. £140 is just a joke, and my council tax is being wasted on their behaviour.”

Another report notes that courts in Stafford consider a £150 fine for dumping rubbish illegally is sufficient.

With maximum fines for individuals being raised to £95,000 and £3million for companies, with prison sentences available for particularly serious offenders, Business Waste asks why courts aren’t flexing their muscles against a problem that is costing hard-pushed local authorities and landowners millions of pounds up and down the country.

Frank (not his real name) is a kitchen fitter who admits that he sometimes fly tips rubbish for various reasons, and sees potential fines as an occupational hazard: “I’ve been caught just the once,” he told, “And that was because I left an invoice in with the rubbish. Pleaded guilty, acted all apologetic to the bench, £200 fine.”

“Why do I do it? Loads of reasons, really,” Frank says. “Tip fees. Big queue for the weighbridge at the rubbish tip. Too tired after a long day. There’s times you just back the van up to a farmer’s gate, open the back doors and push it all out.”

However, Frank is adamant that he draws the line dangerous waste, but knows of people in the ‘trade’ who have fly tipped deadly asbestos waste as they didn’t want the expense of specialist handling.

“I know what I’m doing is wrong,” he says, “But the courts are so lenient, it’s worth the risk.”

However, there are signs that some courts aren’t letting the fly tippers get away with it. In Pontypool in South Wales, one man was forced to hand over £1,000 after being caught dumping two sofas and a microwave oven in a country lane. The magistrate’s order included paying the cost of the clean-up, the kind of justice that Business Waste applauds.

“The place to hit fly tippers is hard in the bank account,” says Business Waste’s Mark Hall, “And forcing them to pay every last penny of the clean-up operation is the way to do it.”

Hall says that courts using their full powers can be the only way ahead, even if it means sending serious and repeat offenders up to Crown Court to be dealt with more severely.

“Nine times out of ten, the courts send the wrong message,” says Hall, “It’s time to take the problem seriously and stop the joke fines.”

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