We deal with a range of environmental and planning matters at Brabners. These range from criminal prosecutions of waste companies to due diligence for multi-million pound land transactions. The same question arises however, what more could we do to ensure compliance with the legislation?
A classic quote from the judiciary is that 'ignorance of the law is no defence.' Therefore simply because you were unaware of the obligations on you or your company will not mean you escape punishment if any wrong doing has been uncovered and this includes intentional or unintentional wrong doing!
The case of Property Wise Facilities Management Limited highlights issues our clients face. They are not a waste management company, it appears it manages properties for clients around the country. It was undertaking refurbishment works and hired what seemed to be a reputable company to remove the waste material produced by the works.
This waste was then deposited on land which did not hold an environmental permit or an exemption from the need to hold such a permit, otherwise known as fly tipping.
Property Wise Facilities Management Limited did not deposit the waste nor did it know this was going to be the receiving site for the waste, it had legitimately it thought transferred the waste and its obligations to the waste carrier.
It was prosecuted for failing to discharge its duties under the duty of care regime in that it had transferred the waste to a person not authorised to do so, which in turn led to a breach of the legislation, but they were not in the waste industry so how are they supposed to know what these duties are?
It is all about due diligence and ensuring that when dealing with environmental issues, and this includes the transfer of waste, that additional questions are asked of the contractor and checks made with the regulatory authority. In this case a simple check of the Environment Agency's database would have uncovered the fact that the contractor did not hold a waste carrier's licence. This can be done online or by calling the Environment Agency.
It is a lesson however to all developers and property management companies - if something looks to go to be true it probably is. Ask questions and obtain copies of all documentation prior to completing on a matter or contracting the services of a company that you have not used before.
A property management firm has been fined £5,000 after a company it hired without sufficient checks dumped waste illegally in Cheshire. Property Wise Facilities Management Ltd, based in Winsford, Cheshire pleaded guilty to duty of care offences at High Wycombe Magistrates Court on 8 November. The magistrates fined the company £5,000 and ordered it to pay £936 compensation and prosecution costs and a victim surcharge of £76 - adding up to £6,012 in all.