The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) needs be used more effectively against waste criminals ‘to act as a deterrent’, according to the author of the independent Mills report into Northern Ireland waste crime.
The Act allows for confiscation orders against convicted individuals, where money obtained illegally is paid back to the State.
For his report, Christopher Mills, former director of the Welsh Environment Agency, visited the Environment Agency (EA), the Department for Environment (DOE), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Natural Resources Wales.
He said: “What is missing from the current sanctions to address waste crime is an effective mechanism to make the polluter pay.”
MRW asked the UK’s environment agencies for statistics on their use of POCA in environmental crimes to date:
|Agency||Confiscation orders||Total confiscated||First case|
|Northern Ireland (DOE)||25||£1,944,136||2009|
|England (EA)||Unable to provide statistics|
Mills said the DOE had made good use of POCA.
However, he added: “In relation to the profits that can be made through waste crime, it is still not, in many cases, an effective deterrent.”
Although to date SEPA have not made many confiscation orders, last year it recruited two dedicated financial investigators who work closely with Police Scotland and the Serious and Organised Crime Division of Crown Office in order to pursue the profits made by criminal activities more effectively.
NRW said the money made from illegal waste activity from its 20 cases where POCA was used successfully totalled £18m. The amount confiscated was more than £2m with £800,000 of that recovered so far.
A NRW spokesperson said: “The POCA regime can be time consuming and resource intensive due a number of factors, including, the need to locate assets, which is an ever increasing challenge; and the court and enforcement process.”
The EA told MRW it was not able to provide POCA statistics, but that the Agency had been preoccupied with flood responses.
In her original response to the Mills report, an EA spokesperson said: “Prosecution isn’t the only solution to waste crime, over the last year we have focused on preventing illegal waste exports and closing down illegal waste sites.”
- Last week MRW reported the increasing problem of organised crime infiltrating the waste sector.