Magistrates need new sentencing guidelines for fly-tipping, councils warn

Fly-tippers prosecuted in court for the worst waste dumping offences were handed an average fine of £335 in 2020/21, the Local Government Association says as it urges tougher sentences to deter fly-tipping.

In its analysis of the latest figures, the LGA says that average fines issued by courts following criminal proceedings averaged at £65 less than the £400 fixed penalty notice councils can issue as a civil action.

The LGA, which represents more than 350 councils across England and Wales, says tougher sentences are needed to deter fly-tipping, which it says costs councils more than £50 million a year to clear up.

For the 2020/21 year, local authorities in England dealt with 1.13 million fly-tipping incidents, an increase of 16 per cent from the 980,000 reported in 2019/20.

The LGA says councils take fly-tipping “extremely seriously” and are taking increasing enforcement action against the criminals responsible. However, prosecuting fly-tippers often requires time-consuming and laborious investigations, with a high threshold of proof. “In addition to the low fines, councils are often left out of pocket from court action as their costs are not fully repaid,” the LGA says.

The LGA cites a case in Weymouth this month where a man was fined £400 for fly tipping on the side of a road. After no payment was received, Dorset Council’s Waste Enforcement and Legal Team officers were left with little option but to prosecute the man, using up their limited time and resource to do so. The court ended up fining the man £150, with costs of £300 and compensation fee £29.

Magistrates need new sentencing guidelines for fly-tipping, to make court action more worthwhile for councils and in turn, reduce fly-tipping in our communities

The LGA also cites a case from earlier this year in Sissinghurt where a woman was ordered to pay a fine of £200, £100 costs and court surcharge of £34, after failing to pay her £400 fixed penalty notice.

The LGA is calling on the Government to work with councils on reviewing guidance to the courts to ensure the worst offenders face tougher fines, and to ensure councils “have the funding needed to investigate and prosecute fly-tippers”.

“Councils want courts to look at fly-tipping as an offence first, rather than at the individual and their ability to pay,” the LGA says, “as well as more use of suspended sentences, or custodial sentences for anyone convicted of a second fly-tipping offence.”

Cllr David Renard, environment spokesperson at the LGA, said: “Fly-tipping is criminal activity and is a blight on our public spaces. The individuals responsible for it must be held accountable and prosecuted.

“We support the Government’s investment in CCTV in fly-tipping hotspots, but without higher fines for the worst-kind of offences, criminals will remain undeterred.

“Magistrates need new sentencing guidelines for fly-tipping, to make court action more worthwhile for councils and in turn, reduce fly-tipping in our communities.”

A spokesperson for the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) said: “Where fly-tipping occurs then tough sanctions can help act as deterrent to further fly-tipping taking place. CIWM has been a long serving member of the National Fly-Tipping Prevention Group (NFTPG) to help progress work in this area.

“This has included getting the Sentencing Council to review and update their guidance in the past. The work of the group continues, and they have developed extra guidance for local authorities to use, to help them make the most of the sentencing guidelines for environmental offences, including fly-tipping.”

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