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Asbestos offences cost couple £80,397

Two waste operators who ran an illegal site in Benfleet have today (Fri) been ordered to hand over 80,397GBP compensation, confiscation and fines by Chelmsford Crown Court. A1 Bins and Waste Ltd’s director David John Tuffen and manager Nigel Lee Hickman were given suspended prison sentences in February after Chelmsford Crown Court heard that the company illegally stored waste at Towerfields Business Park.

Environment Agency officers found 72 large skips full of asbestos waste at the site during investigations of asbestos fly-tipping around Essex, Hertfordshire and Kent.

Today the two men were each fined £3,000 for failing their duty of care to stop that fly-tipping by a sub-contracted driver. The driver, Moses Benjamin Brede, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to dumping five loads of waste asbestos.

Tuffen  from The Oaks, Billericay and Hickman from Bryn Coch, Port Talbot were also each ordered to pay £13,841 compensation to landowners who cleaned up the fly-tip sites. Tuffen was also ordered to pay £30,557 and Hickman £16,158 from the proceeds of their crimes.

They were warned by the judge that if they did not pay on time they could go to prison.

At an earlier hearing the court heard that the company had been in financial difficulty towards the end of 2008. Waste asbestos was taken back to the Towerfields yard to bulk it up and store it there.

A1 Bins advertised as a specialist asbestos waste transport and disposal company. This had given the impression of knowledge and trustworthiness.

The court heard that underpinning that trust was the supply of what appeared to be legitimate invoices and consignment notes showing that the hazardous waste had been taken to and signed for by an Oxfordshire landfill site.  These were false.

Mr Sailesh Mehta, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that £427,000 went through the business between April 2008 and February 2009.

In February Brede was sentenced to 12 months prison for each of five offences to run concurrently and suspended for two years. He was also ordered to pay £500 contribution towards costs. Tuffen was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work. Hickman was given an 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work.

Judge Charles Gratwicke said at the earlier hearing: “Each of you has not paid the slightest regard for the regulations. You all flouted the law for financial gain putting public health at risk.”

After the hearing, the Environment Agency’s environmental crime team leader Lesley Robertson said: “We take the problems of illegal waste very seriously.

“During this investigation we worked in partnership with other agencies including Stevenage Borough Council, Thurrock Council, Essex Police and other regions within the Environment Agency to gather evidence against those believed to be committing these offences.

“This case was made worse by the hazardous nature of the waste, namely three types of asbestos, which was being illegally stored at the site in Benfleet, further aggravated by the fact that the company the defendants operated claimed to be ‘specialist contractors for the disposal of asbestos waste’, preying on others’ trustworthiness.

“This case should also be a warning to legitimate businesses, to ensure that they fulfil their duty of care when employing a business or person to dispose of their waste, including auditing any paperwork that they should receive for the disposal of the waste – don’t be afraid to ask the necessary questions.”

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