In Environment Agency v. David Lawrence, the Court of Appeal, whilst dismissing the appeal before it, clarified an issue of broader significance in relation to sentencing for environmental offences. 

Sukhdip Randhawa of Kangs Solicitors explains this Sentencing Guidelines clarification.

If you are facing an investigation or prosecution conducted by the Environment Agency, it is imperative that you seek immediate expert guidance. We have significant experience of representing corporate and individual clients across the country in relation to waste management and waste disposal investigations.

Our team is here to assist you, please feel free to call us for an initial, no obligation and confidential discussion:

The Circumstances | Kangs Environment Agency Defence Solicitors

  • The Appellant had pleaded guilty to offences contrary to Regulations under the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2010 arising from two separate fires in 2012 and 2013 at premises belonging to the Appellant’s company (‘the premises’), located on the outskirts of Kidderminster close to a canal and a site of specific scientific interest. 
  • In breach of its Environmental Agency permit, despite various inspections from the Environment Agency and warnings, a fire broke out at the premises in December 2012 which took more than a week to extinguish.  
  • Subsequently, despite further warnings, another major fire broke out in June 2013 which resulted in the second biggest fire-fighting operation in Hereford & Worcester throughout the previous twenty eight years.

The Appellants Contentions | Waste Disposal Offences Defence Solicitors

At the Sentencing Hearing, the Judge imposed a sentence of nine months imprisonment suspended for two years which the Appellant maintained was manifestly excessive and thatthe Judge had erred in the way he applied the Sentencing Guidelines in that, inter alia: 

  • he incorrectly determined harm at the top of Category 2,  
  • aggravated the features of harm to move it into a Category 1 offence,
  • through his analysis, reached a starting point of fifteen months imprisonment, which was too high, before discounts were applied and
  • he could not move out of Category 2 once that was considered the starting point for the level of the offence. 

Appeal Findings | Kangs Criminal Defence Solicitors

The Court of Appeal rejected the Appellant’s contentions stating there were ample findings made by the Judge to justify him finding harm at the top of Category 2, with other features available to aggravate the offending well beyond that. 

Whilst passing Judgement it was stated:

‘No-one committing such offences should think that multiple aspects of his/her wrong-doing, however grave will receive no punishment simply because they all fall within one category of harm. I do not accept that it was or could ever have been the intention of the sentencing council to so limit or constrain the duty of the judge in assessing the features of the case before him/her’.

A number of cases were quoted including:

R v. Whirlpool UK Appliances Ltd (2018) where it was observed:

‘Guideline assists in an exercise of structured judgment; it is not a straightjacket’

BUPA Care Homes (BNH) Ltd v. R and again in R v. KC (2019):

‘It is not sensible to seek to construe the guideline as if they were a statute. They cannot predict every permutation of circumstances that might arise and there must be a degree of elasticity in the terminology used, and to that extent there is a degree of flexibility in how the guidelines operate … or simply moving outside of the category … range in the guidelines’

How Can We Help? | Kangs Environment Agency Defence Solicitors

Kangs Solicitors has a wealth of knowledge and experience in dealing with all aspect of regulatory law including environmental offences in relation to:

  • water pollution
  • land contamination
  • breaches of environmental permits
  • unlawful dumping or storage of waste

Who Can I Contact for Help? | Kangs National Criminal Defence Solicitors

Please feel free to contact our team through any of the solicitors named below who will be happy to provide you with some initial advice and assistance.

Hamraj Kang
07976 258171 | 020 7936 6396 | 0121 449 9888

John Veale
0121 449 9888 | 020 7936 6396 | 07989 521 210

Suki Randhawa
0121 449 9888 | 020 7936 6396