A family from Cornwall has been ordered to repay £365,275 it made in profits from an illegal waste operation it ran from a former smallholding near St Austell.
Eight members of the Buckland family were also ordered to pay a total of £91,934 in fines and costs at a sentencing hearing at Truro Crown Court. The defendants had previously pleaded guilty to a series of waste offences.
A court heard how several thousand tonnes of waste were dumped at Rocks Farm, Bugle between 2003 – 2011. The site was transformed into an illegal waste transfer station and landfill where waste was sorted, burnt recycled or tipped by the Buckland’s large extended family.
The illegal waste activities continued despite there being no planning permission from Restormel Borough Council or necessary permits from the Environment Agency. The waste was being stored and disposed of within a County Wildlife Site.
Advice given by Environment Agency staff was ignored and in the end, working closely with Devon and Cornwall Police, the Agency launched an investigation that culminated in a raid on Rocks Farm in June 2011, during which a number of arrests were made.
It is estimated more than 4,500 cubic metres of waste had been illegally landfilled at Rocks Farm. This was described in court as a ‘very conservative’ estimate and that the true figure was probably ‘considerably more.’ Agency officers also found septic tanks that weren’t working properly. Sewage effluent was being discharged to groundwater. The tanks served a caravan site at Rocks Farm. Upon inspection the sewerage system was found to be ‘woefully inadequate’.
‘Illegal waste sites undercut legitimate operators and threaten the viability of law-abiding waste businesses. We are committed to creating a level playing field and won’t hesitate to prosecute illegal waste operators to safeguard local communities and protect the environment,’ said Andy Gardiner for the Environment Agency.
‘This case is a good example of an effective working partnership between the Environment Agency and the police. The size of fines and Proceeds of Crime payment demonstrates how seriously the courts now take environmental offences,’ said Andy Gardiner.
Shirley Buckland, Leeroy Buckland, Jason Buckland, Paul Crocker, Shane Buckland, James Crocker, Karl Buckland and Roseanne Buckland had earlier pleaded guilty to waste offences involving the storage, disposal and or recycling of waste at Rocks Farm without a permit.
Shirley Buckland also admitted an offence under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 of causing a groundwater discharge of sewage effluent.
The largest fine of £12,000 was imposed on Shirley Buckland who was also ordered to pay the highest Proceeds of Crime penalty of £175,000.
Leeroy Buckland was ordered pay back £117,000 from profits made from the family’s illegal waste business. Roseanne Buckland received a conditional discharge and nominal confiscation order of £1.00. She was also ordered to pay £500 costs.
The other defendants were ordered to pay fines varying between £400 - £1,000 and Proceeds of Crime penalties between £5,274 - £20,000.
Members of the public can report waste crime by calling the Environment Agency’s free 24-hour hotline 0800 80 70 60.