Fly-tipping case report: London Borough of Croydon v George Smith

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On 25 January 2017, George Smith was sentenced to a total of 52 weeks’ imprisonment (the maximum prison sentence available to a magistrates’ court) for a total of 4 separate fly-tipping incidents committed within the Borough of Croydon. This sentence comprised 26 weeks custody for 3 offences which took place at the same location in South Croydon, and a further, consecutive sentence of 26 weeks custody for one offence in Thornton Heath. Mr Smith was also convicted for failing to hold a waste carrier’s licence, and for failing to attend an interview as required under statutory powers but received no separate penalty for these offences. The Court did however deprive him of the two vehicles he used in the commission of these offences, which will now be sold or destroyed by the Council.

Mr Smith had previously be found guilty of these offences on 4 January 2017 at the conclusion of a contested trial conducted by Sharpe Pritchard Associate Solicitor, Simon Kiely on behalf of the local authority.

Background facts

The 4 fly-tipping offences which Mr Smith was prosecuted for took place on 12 February 2016, 15 March 2016, 16 March 2016 and 11 April 2016. The first 3 offences all involved the use of an X-reg white tipper truck, and 2 of these incidents took place in an alleyway to the rear of residential premises in South Croydon, which were captured on local residents’ CCTV cameras. The footage captured of the incident on 15 March 2016 showed Mr Smith reversing the vehicle down the alleyway, raising the tipper and opening the rear gate of the truck, and then driving away at high speed causing the piled up builders’ waste and rubble on the tipper to slide off on to the floor in a cloud of dust and dirt, and fully blocking access to the alleyway for all local residents.

This vehicle was spotted by officers on Thursday 7 April 2016 and was then seized using statutory powers. However, by Monday 11 April 2016, Mr Smith had already been out and purchased a replacement white tipper truck, this time with an 04-reg plate and distinctive logos of the former owner’s business on the front and side panels, and used this vehicle to collect waste and fly-tip it again in the same alleyway in South Croydon. This incident was again captured on CCTV. This second vehicle was also then spotted and seized by the Council on 13 April 2016.

The prosecution also subsequently discovered that Mr Smith had been involved in a further fly-tip offence in nearby Caterham, within the neighbouring Tandridge borough, which Mr Smith was found guilty of in October 2016. This conviction was relied upon both as bad character at trial, and as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

During the investigation the Council required Mr Smith to attend an interview to discuss the offending using their statutory powers under section 108 of the Environment Act 1995, and while Mr Smith attended the Council’s offices at the date and time requested, he refused to be interviewed.

Mr Smith admitted at trial that he did not hold a waste carrier’s licence from the Environment Agency which is a statutory requirement for anyone transporting waste. He explained that he had applied for one only to have been refused due to previous convictions for fly-tipping in 2009. 

When sentencing Mr Smith to 52 weeks’ immediate custody, District Judge Hammond described the offences as acts of ‘wanton vandalism’, and found them to be of the upmost seriousness. She commented that Mr Smith’s actions had caused considerable harm to the environment and local residents, and that it was noted he had derived income and enriched himself to the detriment of the community.

This case has received extensive local and national media coverage, including articles in The Daily Mail, The Metro and The Evening Standard, and a feature on BBC’s The One Show.

Mr Smith’s sentence, together with the associated media coverage, sends a strong message to any would-be fly-tippers as to the consequences they face for their actions.

Sharpe Pritchard continue to work closely with the London Borough of Croydon’s Environmental Enforcement team, as well as other departments, on wide range of prosecution cases.

Simon Kiely and other members of the Criminal Prosecutions team at Sharpe Pritchard regularly prosecute cases on behalf of a large number of local authorities, and are available to discuss any cases which you may wish to refer. We also provide specific advice as and when problems may arise with a case, and can provide guidance on any tricky areas of the law.

This article is for general awareness only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this page was first published.

Posted in Criminal Prosecutions, Litigation, Local government, Simon Kiely, Waste.