Accused Of Fly-Tipping By The Council? Here’s What You Need To Know

mariam-abu-hussein
Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 18th January 2024

If the council finds rubbish with your name and address dumped somewhere it shouldn’t, you might get accused of fly-tipping. In such cases, even if the council doesn’t have proof that you dumped it yourself, the law kind of assumes you’re guilty unless you prove otherwise. 

accused-of-fly-tipping-by-the-council

If the council says you dumped waste without the right permissions or licenses, they might invite you to a voluntary interview under caution. This article will explain what to do if you’ve been accused of fly-tipping by the council. 

Can you challenge a fly-tipping fixed penalty notice? 

You can challenge a fly-tipping fixed penalty notice for fly-tipping if you think: 

  • No offence was committed, or the notice was wrongly issued; 

  • The offence wasn’t your fault or you couldn’t have prevented it; 

  • The offender is under 18, mentally or physically incapacitated, or has another incapacity preventing them from understanding the offense; 

  • Significant circumstances temporarily affected your ability to comply with the law; 

  • Serving the notice is not in the public interest. 

To successfully challenge a fly-tipping fixed penalty notice, you will have to provide evidence supporting your case. Your local council should provide information on how to appeal in your area. 

I’ve been invited for a voluntary interview under caution for fly-tipping. What will happen?

Most County Councils have a dedicated Community Protection Team and Enforcement Officers tasked with investigating allegations of fly-tipping and offenses under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Individuals accused of fly-tipping are typically invited for a voluntary interview under caution. This interview may take place at your house, council offices, or a police station and should follow the rules outlined in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. 

Before the interview, the council may share information about the investigation with you and provide a general overview of the evidence against you. Often, in fly-tipping cases, evidence consists of items in fly-tipped rubbish that can be linked back to you, such as letters with your name and address on them. 

Following this disclosure, you’ll be able to speak with your solicitor privately about the evidence and share your version of events. Your solicitor will offer legal advice and present your available options depending on what you tell them. 

You do not have to attend a voluntary interview. You also have the right to remain silent and can stop the interview at any time. Whether any of these actions are in your best interest depends on the specifics of your case. A solicitor can help you make an informed decision on how to respond based on your circumstances.

Should I get a lawyer if I’ve been accused of fly-tipping? 

Prosecutions for fly-tipping are taken seriously because of their impact on the community and the consequences can be severe. A solicitor can provide advice and help you get the best possible outcome for your case, whether you’re being investigated for fly-tipping or facing prosecution for it.

At Lawhive, our team of litigation solicitors is on hand to guide and support you if you’ve been accused of fly-tipping offences.

Contact us today for a free case assessment and find the best solicitor for your situation. 

What is fly-tipping? 

Fly-tipping is illegally depositing waste, including household and commercial waste, on land without proper permission. It’s a problem because it causes local nuisance and environmental issues, especially if the waste contains toxic materials that could pose a risk to public health or damage watercourses and soil quality. 

Fly-tipping is a serious crime different from littering, which typically involves smaller items associated with everyday activities. If you’re accused of fly-tipping, you can face harsh penalties, such as fines and imprisonment. In 2022/23, local authorities in England carried out 536,000 enforcement actions related to fly-tipping, an increase of 6% compared with the previous year. 

What is the impact of fly-tipping? 

Fly-tipping has harmful effects on the environment, public health, and wildlife, and it undermines legitimate waste businesses. The UK Government mainly focuses on measuring the cost of clearing larger-scale fly-tipping incidents, which account for about 4% of total cases. In 2021/22, the clearance cost for these larger incidents was £10.7 million.

Reports estimate that fly-tipping costs £392 million. Organised fly-tipping can turn into a serious crime, where criminals offer 'waste clearing services' but illegally dump the waste, often using force and threats. Cleaning up a single site can cost between £10,000 to £500,000, and criminals may return to repeat the cycle.

Why does fly-tipping happen? 

Fly-tipping happens for various reasons, like people wanting to save money, a lack of proper waste disposal options, laziness, and the belief that others should handle the waste. The government's Litter Strategy noted reasons like avoiding disposal costs and a perceived shortage of legal disposal sites. Cuts to local funding, closure of tips, and charges for waste collection may also contribute.

What are the penalties for fly-tipping? 

If you’re caught fly-tipping in England and Wales, the penalties are defined by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Consequences vary depending on the seriousness of the offense.

If you receive a summary conviction from the Magistrates’ Court, you could face up to 6 months in jail, an unlimited fine, or both. 

If you receive a conviction on indictment from the Crown Court, the penalty could include up to 5 years in jail, an unlimited fine, or both. 

Additional penalties may include: 

  • Having to cover legal costs and pay compensation;

  • A fixed penalty notice ranging from £150 to £1,000 in England or from £150 to £400 in Wales;

Authorities can also seize vehicles involved in fly-tipping incidents. 

Who deals with fly-tipping? 

Local councils

Local councils handle the cleanup of illegally dumped waste on relevant land and investigate smaller fly-tipping incidents. They also have the authority to look into larger, organised, or hazardous cases of illegal dumping, provided there's a local agreement in place.

In some cases, they may work with the Environment Agency to handle the removal and disposal of illegally dumped waste. If a local council successfully prosecutes under section 33 EPA 90, they should inform the Environment Agency to consider revoking associated waste carriers' licenses.

Environment Agency

The Environment Agency investigates various waste crimes connected to fly-tipping, including illegal waste activities, unregistered waste carriers, and brokers. They can also take action against waste dumped in controlled waters that could harm the environment or human health.

Landowners 

If waste is illegally dumped on private land, it’s up to the landowner to deal with it. Local councils can choose whether to investigate fly-tipping on private land, but they’re not obliged to clean up the mess. In some cases, the Environment Agency might give advice or help if there’s a risk to the environment or people’s health.

Recent cases have seen landowners getting into trouble if they know about illegal waste activities on their land and don’t do anything about it. 

The National Fly-Tipping Prevention Group

The National Fly-Tipping Prevention group is made up of landowners, businesses, government representatives, and agencies like the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resources Wales, and the Environment Agency. Their job is to figure out how to stop fly-tipping and give advice to the government on dealing with dumped waste.

The Environment Agency and local councils team up with the NFTPG to help landowners prevent fly-tipping. 

What is being done to tackle fly-tipping? 

Over the past few years, the UK government has implemented various initiatives to tackle waste crime and fly-tipping including: 

  • Introducing new rules allowing authorities to serve notices for removing unlawfully kept waste and restricting access to waste facilities; 

  • Forming the Joint Unit for Waste Crime to combat serious waste crime;

  • Allocating £2 million to enhance evidence on fly-tipping and effective deterrents in 2020;

  • Introducing an electronic system for waste movement tracking; 

  • Providing councils with grants for projects targeting fly-tipping prevention. 

These efforts aim to strengthen enforcement, improve waste management, and discourage illegal waste activities. 

Plans for fly-tipping reforms 

Starting in April 2025, the UK Government plans to make digital waste tracking mandatory. This means anyone involved in waste production, handling, disposal, or creating products from waste must input information into a digital system. The goal is to help regulators detect illegal activities, including fly-tipping.

The government is also looking to revamp the waste carrier, broker, and dealer registration system. They want to introduce environmental permit requirements to ensure that only authorised individuals manage waste safely, aiming to reduce incidents like fly-tipping.

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