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Environment Minister pledges to stop crime paying

Environment Minister Elliot Morley has exclusively revealed to MRW that the Government plans to overhaul the fining system for environmental crimes such as fly-tipping and the illegal recycling of cars.

The penalties handed out by magistrates were criticised in a recent Treasury report that found it was often in a company's interest to pay the fine rather than spend time and money complying with the law (See MRW story).

Morley said: "We recognise that the Environment Agency spends time and money bringing these cases to court and too often the fines haven't reflected the financial gain of the offenders.

"The proper disposal of waste is potentially very expensive, and the potential saving of those that dump illegally must be reflected in the fines."

The Government is looking at a number of measures, said Morley, including the retraining of magistrates on green issues and the creation of a special environmental magistrates board.

He added: "I know that [Solicitor General] Harriet Harman is very interested in this issue.

"We are considering bringing in more civil penalties with lower fines for those that have unintentionally broken the law through no more than ignorance.

"We are not weakening the law by doing this; we just want to make it tougher for those that have intentionally behaved illegally when they get to court."

However, Morley admitted that none of the proposed changes will happen before the general election, which is expected to take place on May 5.

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