In April 2017, a mass dumping of some 500-600 tonnes of waste was found under the A40 near Uxbridge. MRW’s Andrea Lockerbie tracked the case through one of Buckinghamshire County Council’s enforcement officers, who wished to remain anonymous.
After making headline news, Buckinghamshire County Council says its enforcement officers have been gathering evidence at the site, resulting in 30 active investigations. A council spokesman confirms that the site has been secured and protected with concrete blocks by Highways England, which owns the land and plans to clear the site as soon as possible.
The estimated 100 trucks-worth of illegally dumped waste represents around a quarter of the total amount of fly-tipped waste that the council normally deals with in a year. As the enforcement officer explains, its sheer scale is “beyond what we normally deal with” and was the biggest job he has ever had to deal with. As a result, he says the case may be passed to the Environment Agency (EA) for investigation.
“We are following up leads from the deposited waste. There is a lot of information which can be gathered from that. It is an extremely complicated picture,” he explains.
He believes there is a connection with a fly-tipping case in High Wycombe.
The waste has been cleared away by a Highways England contractor. The clearance took two and a half weeks, with 145 x 20-tonne loads removed to a recycling centre, as well as 73 fridges and two loads of asbestos sheeting. It cost around £130,000.
According to the enforcement officer, he is dealing with part of the case while the deposit of the waste is something that will be investigated by the EA.
“We have been looking into the duties of care of the people who have produced the waste, and we have reported several waste producers for consideration of summonses,” he says. “I don’t think any of us view it as great news that somebody has failed in their duty of care. It is always disappointing that people have not made their transaction with a waste carrier fully traceable.
“I can only speak from an enforcement point of view, and I see more illegally dumped waste now than I have done in the past 15 years. We have several cases like [the A40 fly-tipping] on the go. These are people who are actively engaged in waste crime – and they are able to keep their business going only because people employ them and don’t properly check them out.”
He explains that the A40 dumped waste is mainly from building work that has been done with a builder as opposed to DIY.
“The circumstances on every single one may differ. Somebody may have been let down – the skip company is too busy to empty the skip and they have a need to move waste, and a man with van turns up, so they use it. Or it could be that the householder has a pile of waste to take to the recycling centre and does not get around to doing it, and a van pops up and they say ‘go on then, you take it’.
“Or it could be a builder who has used a waste carrier before who calls and says ‘I’m busy, but I’ll get my cousin to come’. It could honestly be lots of different scenarios. But what they all add up to is that if they had complied with their duty of care, the chances of the waste being dumped illegally would be reduced massively. I see no benefit in allowing people to pay cash for waste removal: it is either tax avoidance or fly-tipping, and neither of those things are great. So, personally, if I were a legislator, why not say that it is illegal to pay cash?”
Several failures of duty of care have now been reported by the council for summonses, with an expectation that some cases will go to court in the next six months.
The officer says: “In most of the situations we are looking at, the householder has done nothing wrong. The householder has not failed in duty of care when they get their builder to take the waste away that the builder has produced. There are some householders who have transferred waste and we view them as a potential witness for the EA.
“I know of one householder who had two loads [of waste] removed and that person has [no information about the waste carrier] – they described it simply as a white van – so that person has been reported for summons. If they had even got a mobile phone number they would not have been reported for summons.
“We do view householders as positively as we can, but certainly for people in the building trade, we expect full compliance with the duty of care.
“Even with builders – if they had not paid cash, if they had made an online transfer payment, they would be potentially a witness and they would not be reported. If they had taken a photograph of the truck with the registration number, they would not be reported for summonses. If they asked to see a carrier registration certificate and took a picture of it, they would not be reported – we have all got cameras on our phones now.”
“I have finished work on [the A40 fly-tipping case] now – the site has been completely cleared. We have about half a dozen cases which we expect to go to court. They are all on the duty of care failure where people, mainly builders, would transfer their waste to these guys [the fly-tippers] without checking,” says the enforcement officer.
“Having said that, those same fly-tippers are tipping in other places, so we do have leads on them. The evidence will not allow us to take cases on the A40 [against the waste dumpers] because we would need to prove that they deposited that waste and the evidence will not allow us to do that. So we will catch them somewhere else but we won’t be able to catch them for that one.
“If we tried to put a case against someone for depositing that waste, we would lose because the evidence simply isn’t strong enough. Nobody saw them dump it, we didn’t have any cameras in place, we weren’t carrying out any surveillance and nobody has given us any compelling evidence of who they were. But they keep dumping, and [where they have dumped] elsewhere, people have complied better with their duty of care, so they have identified them better and we are then able to pursue them.
“We traced quite a few of the dumped loads [from the A40] to where they came from. If they were householders who naively transferred their waste to a man with a van, we haven’t prosecuted those householders, but we could have.
“What we are looking at are builders particularly – if they are carrying out business activities, they have a full duty of care on the waste that their business produces and we expect them to comply much more with identifying the waste carrier. We see them as being responsible for the fact that their waste has been deposited illegally because if they had done what the law required of them, it would never have been fly-tipped.
“I think everybody has an awareness of [their duty of care responsibilities]. What you tend to find is that people take a shortcut once and it catches them out.
“But even though they are regularly using skips elsewhere, it doesn’t mean that their duty of care awareness is as high as I would like it.
“We do a lot of work in Buckinghamshire to promote [knowledge about duty of care requirements] but most of the A40 waste came out of London. I would like it very much if the awareness was better in London.
“What I am hoping to do at some stage is some joint working [on raising awareness of duty of care] with waste companies in the London area, because they will get more business out of it,” he says.
“The A40 ‘mass dumping’ event was a very significant occurrence, which was linked to an illegal encampment – the same group was responsible for several similar encampments in Buckinghamshire (Handy Cross, High Wy-combe; Hollybush Lane, Denham; Beaconsfield Road, Farnham Common; Old Mill Lane, Denham; Slade Oak Lane, Denham; and Abbey Barn Lane, High Wycombe) in the spring and early summer of 2017,” said the officer.
“We carried out numerous investigations following up the waste dumped in all of these sites. Thames Valley Police and the EA usually take a lead in addressing this kind of crime.
“At least two cases have been to court prosecuting duty of care failures regarding wastes which were dumped by this group. The cases resulted in totals to pay of £1,550 and £6,012. I know that several duty of care failure cases await court dates for five of these encampment ‘mass dumping’ sites.
“Legal services representing Buckinghamshire council recommended issuing simple cautions in duty of care cases involving waste production by householders for these cases. Several cautions have been issued and other similar cases have been dealt with by issue of warning letter.
“Those cases have provided very useful intelligence information which resulted in one unsuccessful police identification parade for a dumping suspect.
“These days the police do an electronic recording of both profiles rather than lining people up against a wall for an ID parade. It is called a Viper (visual identification parade electronic recording), but it is quite challenging to get an identification from because they place the suspect among visually very similar people.
“I’m not saying it’s impossible to get a positive ID, but [only] around 50% of ID parades are successful – ours was not, so that one we cannot proceed against,” he says.
“The intelligence information led to the interview of a suspect at a London police station, with another suspect due to be interviewed there at the end of the month. We believe that a case against one or more of the dumpers from this group will follow that second interview. We also interviewed a suspect recently – someone who carried waste away, and we know he did, but nobody saw him deposit that waste.
“So we are in the position where we have one more interview to do and then I anticipate that a court case will follow against one or two of those people for a waste deposit offence.
“I completely support the council’s policy of zero tolerance against duty of care failure because, without it, we keep feeding their business, and their business is waste crime.”
With regard to the waste fly-tipped under the A40, Artur Andrzej Dlugosz, a 35-year-old builder from Southway, Guildford, pleaded guilty in court to failing in his and his company’s (D&B International) duty of care. Evidence found within the dumped waste led to Dlugosz being interviewed under caution by officers from Buckinghamshire council.
He admitted in court that he had employed the services of an opportunist ‘man with a van’ operator to remove and dispose of waste that he had generated at a site he was working at in south London. Dlugosz admitted that he had been negligent and did not check if the individual was registered with the EA as an authorised waste carrier, and that no paperwork was completed.
He was ordered to pay a total of £1,614, made up of a £750 fine, costs incurred by the council of £789 and a victim surcharge of £75. His company was also fined £250, ordered to pay £789 towards costs and a victim surcharge of £30.
The outcome of another case of failure of duty of care – dumping at a former car showroom at Beaconsfield Road, Farnham Common that had been broken into by the same illegal encampment group of ‘mass dumpers’ – has resulted in a £1,280 fine for the builders who generated two loads of the waste and costs of £2,205.
The enforcement officer says: “We have also carried out a second Police and Criminal Evidence interview at Hounslow police station regarding dumping offences carried out by this group at another site: Old Mill Road, Denham. Two men have been reported for summonses for depositing waste illegally.”
He adds that the same group has been back for three “massive dumps”F and the authorities are “very involved” with them, but it is taking time to build up evidence to secure prosecution. These three cases are being investigated with help from the EA and the police. Most evidence came from building work carried out in west London.
Investigation of the fly-tipping at Sutton Lane, Slough, where 15-20 loads of waste were dumped, has found evidence of five different waste producers.
Another case linked to the ‘mass dumping’ fly-tipper group has resulted in a building company and its director being fined £6,867. The builders passed three loads of waste from a job in London to the illegal waste carriers, with the waste subsequently fly-tipped at a former ski slope in High Wycombe in July 2017.
The enforcement officer’s work continues and he is hoping to see this group brought to justice soon.
Buckinghamshire County Council has a zero-tolerance approach to fly-tipping. It has successfully convicted 560 individuals and companies during the past 10 years for fly-tipping (62%) and duty of care failures contributing to fly-tipping. The total to pay (fines, costs, surcharges) for those convictions was £780,000.