Figures reveal few successful fly-tipping prosecutions
NEW figures reveal there were just over 3,100 instances of fly-tipping in Suffolk over a year, but only 10 successful prosecutions.
Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, which conducted the research, said fly-tipping was a crime that perpetrators could get away with.
The figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the enormous scale of fly-tipping in England and Wales from April 2010 to March 2011 and highlight there were no successful prosecutions for many local authorities for that period.
Out of the seven district and borough councils in Suffolk only Babergh District Council, Forest Heath District Council and Mid Suffolk District Council achieved successful prosecutions.
The figures for Suffolk Coastal District Council show estimated clearance and disposal costs were �20,301, but there were no successful prosecutions and for St Edmundsbury Borough Council the amounts stood at �11,606 and 0 respectively.
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Andrew Nunn, cabinet member for the green environment at Suffolk Coastal District Council, said the information from the alliance did not fairly reflect the true picture which was that Suffolk Coastal had a “firm but fair policy” when it came to dealing with fly-tippers.
He said: “We will always initially offer them the opportunity to clear up the site themselves or pay for it to removed. By merely focusing on fines issued by the courts, the statistics fail to give due weight to other more effective and value-for-money enforcement actions such as issuing fixed penalty notices, or formal cautions, or even warning letters.”
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He said prosecution was a “last resort” as it was lengthy, potentially expensive and there was no financial benefit to the councils as any fines ultimately levied by the courts went directly to the Government.
He added while any instance of fly-tipping was “unacceptable” the district did have a relatively low number.
A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said while it was “disappointing” they were unable to prosecute anyone for fly-tipping for that period, their action was dependant on the level of hard evidence available at the scene.
She said in 2009 to 2010 the council prosecuted four individuals for a total of eight offences, adding that their figures showed the number of reported incidents of fly-tipping in the borough have fallen by 55% since 2004 to 2005.
She said: “We agree that rubbish dumped in the countryside is a real nuisance and we have a good relationship with local farmers, landowners and parish councils who help us to promptly investigate and sort out the removal of all rubbish.
“By taking fast action, putting up signs warning about fines and prosecutions, and reminding people about where they can take their unwanted material we aim to deter people from this unacceptable behaviour.”
The research by the Countryside Alliance, which works to protect rural Britain, shows at least 656,000 incidents of fly-tipping, but for rural local authorities the rate of prosecutions was just three in every 1,000. The total cost to local authorities of clearing and then enforcing legal and punitive actions was �40,128,197, but only �692,000 was collected in fines.
Ms Barnard said the Government needed to work closer with cash-strapped local authorities to tackle the problem.
“We need a co-ordinated plan which ensures people who fly-tip are caught and punished and provides greater support to local authorities and landowners who bear the brunt of the cost of clearing up the mess.”
A spokeswoman for Defra, the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “We’re cracking down on these irresponsible criminals by introducing appropriate powers to seize vehicles, and looking at other penalties which might include offenders taking part in clean-ups.”
The St Edmundsbury Borough Council spokeswoman said they ran a collection service for bulky items and highlighted there are county council-run waste sites as well as private contractors for commercial waste and the voluntary sector for many unwanted goods. Mr Nunn said they had heavily promoted the free, accessible alternatives for people to dispose of unwanted rubbish and also regularly encouraged people to report incidents of fly-tipping. Anyone with any information about fly-tipping in Suffolk Coastal should call 01394 444000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.