Environmental offences cover any illegal activity that harms the environment and include cases such as the improper disposal of waste, water pollution, non-compliance with complex waste or permitting regulations or even failing to keep proper waste disposal records.
The main agency responsible for enforcing environmental law in England is the Environment Agency (who has numerous investigatory and enforcement powers, including powers of entry, powers to request information, documents or records, and powers to enforce or prohibit certain behaviour through notices. However, there are other regulatory agencies in England, such as: Natural England; the Marine Management Organisation; the National Measurement Office; and the Departments for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Energy and Climate Change; and Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
Local authorities also have their own environmental health departments to assist in the enforcement of environmental regulations, including the regulation of emissions and air, water and land from smaller industrial plants and collecting and disposing of municipal waste.
The Environmental or Local Authority investigating the matter have a range of options including issuing Enforcement or Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) or instigating a criminal prosecution.
Most cases in the courts for Environmental Offence are dealt with by way of a substantial Fine although some of the more serious offences carry a risk of imprisonment of those responsible such as Directors of the business. The Environmental Agency can also apply for ancillary orders following a conviction which can include the disqualification of a director and confiscation of assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Those convicted of an environmental offence who hold an environmental permit, may have their competence to hold that permit reviewed and reconsidered. A conviction is also likely to have implications on any current or future permit applications.
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