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Waste crime damages the environment, is a blight on local communities and the Government is committed to tackling this criminal activity. We have given the Environment Agency (EA) an extra £60 million to tackle waste crime since 2014 and have also made a range of legislative changes. In addition, the Resource and Waste Strategy sets out an ambitious package of further reforms to modernise the way waste is regulated, clamping down on illegal operators and improving performance across the sector. Some of these commitments are being taken forward in the Environment Bill, including measures to further strengthen EA powers when dealing with criminal operators.
The new Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC), a taskforce dedicated to tackling serious and organised criminality in the waste sector was launched last month. The JUWC will tackle criminal activity including the large-scale illegal dumping, or false labelling of waste so it can be exported abroad to unsuspecting countries. It brings together the EA, the National Crime Agency, the police, HMRC, Natural Resources Wales and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in a concerted UK-wide effort to share intelligence and resources to tackle crime which costs the economy at least £600 million every year.
Fly-tipping is unacceptable whether it occurs on public or private land and tackling this crime is a priority for the Government. In recent years we have bolstered local authorities’ powers to tackle fly-tipping. As well as enhanced powers to search and seize vehicles of suspected fly-tippers, we have given them 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. 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.
If a prosecution is taken, then a fly-tipper can receive a fine of up to £50,000, or 12 months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates' Court. The offence can attract an unlimited fine and up to 5 years imprisonment if convicted in a Crown Court. Defra has 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, but will continue this work to help to secure tougher penalties in line with our manifesto commitment.
We have also committed to the development of a fly-tipping toolkit, hosted by the National Fly Tipping Prevention Group (NFTPG). This will be a web-based tool to help local authorities and others work in partnership to tackle fly-tipping. It will cover, for example, the use of new technology to report fly-tipping, sharing of intelligence within and between partnerships, dealing with unauthorised encampments and promoting the duty of care to individuals and businesses. The Government is also consulting at the moment about strengthening police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments. The NFTPG has also published a Fly-tipping Partnership Framework outlining best practice for the prevention, reporting, investigation and clearance of fly-tipping and a series of fly-tipping prevention guides for householders, businesses and landowners.