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New powers over property seized in waste crime cases

New regulations for dealing with property seized by authorities tackling waste crime such as fly-tipping have been laid before Parliament and will come into force on 6 April.

The Control of Waste (Dealing with Seized Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 establish the procedures which waste collection authorities, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales must follow once they have seized property, such as a vehicle or its contents, because of suspected involvement in offences concerning the transport or disposal of waste.

They also set out what the authorities must do to determine the owner of seized property, the circumstances in which it must be returned and those by which they can sell, destroy or otherwise dispose of it.

Authorities currently have the power to seize a vehicle where they have reasonable grounds for believing that an offence has been committed, including the deposit, treatment or disposal of waste without a permit.

But they can only do so to ascertain who was using it at the time of the offence and must return it once the registered keeper is identified.

Defra says the existing seizure process can be expensive and burdensome since authorities must obtain a warrant from a magistrate before seizing property and must then publish details in a local newspaper.

“These costs are a disincentive to many seizure authorities who would otherwise use the powers more often than they currently do, thus reducing the effectiveness of what should be an important enforcement tool against waste crime,” it says.

The legislation follows a consultation process between 13 December 2014 and 3 February. There were 46 responses, including a call for a guidance document.

Defra says such a document will be available, explaining in more detail their rights and responsibilities when exercising the new powers.

“This document will also be useful to anybody who has their property seized as it sets out the circumstances in which the property can be returned to them.”

The guidance will be available online from 6 April.

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