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Recycling directors who polluted land “not liable” for clean up

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Clean up costs totalling £1.1m will not have to be personally paid by the former directors

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the directors of the former recycling facility in Monmouthshire, that allowed polluted waste to leak into the land, are not liable to have to personally pay for the clean up, at a cost of £1.1m.

As director of the composting company, Wormtech Ltd, which was based in Caerwent, Jacqueline Powell was found guilty in January 2014, of breaching the conditions of the company’s environmental permit and for storing waste in a way that could pollute the environment, or cause harm to human health.

Last year, Jacqueline Powell was made to pay £200,000 in compensation at a proceeds of crime act hearing.

However, prosecutors Natural Resources Wales (NRW), were unhappy with the judge’s ruling that company directors Powell and Jonathan Westwood, were not going to be held liable for the costs involved in cleaning up and are seeking additional confiscation proceedings.

In 2012, Wormtech Ltd were placed in administration.

Cost to the tax payers for cleaning up the site, which is owned by the Ministry of Defence, is estimated to be around £1.125 million but NRW believe that this figure could rise to £1.6 million when you include the disposal of waste at the landfill.

They did say, however, that other recovery and disposal options could be looked at, alongside further waste treatment.

Earlier this month, a hearing took place at Cardiff Crown Court and this week, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the two directors, Powell and Westwood, stating that neither of them can be personally pursued for the costs of cleaning up the site.

Lord Justice Treacy, who was sitting with Mr Justice Holgate and Mr Justice Hickinbottom, said that Wormtech Ltd had: “Failed to observe the necessary regulations.” He also added: “It was a lawful operation which had become unlawful through breaches of conditions.”

Lord Justice Treacy also said that the MOD had hampered any attempts by the company to make structural changes at the site.

Barristers for NRW requested that the ‘corporate veil’ be pierced – meaning to go behind the protection that directors have within a company and to allow them to be held responsible.

However, Lord Justice Treacy said that Jacqueline Powell and Jonathan Westwood never tried to hide their wrong-doing behind the ‘corporate veil’ and the appeal was dismissed.

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