Recycling company and scrapyard owner Lee Hazel has been ordered to pay nearly £2m under a confiscation order, the money he made from running an illegal waste site in Wiltshire.
In February 2016, Hazel received an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years for running an illegal waste operation. At the time, the court heard from the Environment Agency that it had closed Hazel’s site and that the O-licence for the company involved, Melksham Metals, had been revoked.
In July this year, Hazel appeared before Swindon Crown Court and was warned he would face an eight-year prison sentence if he failed to pay the full amount required by the confiscation order made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
This amount was originally £2.74m but Hazel’s lawyers appealed against this and it has been reduced to £1.99m. This was because the court ruled it had been wrong to include a figure for VAT when calculating how Hazel had benefited.
The ruling marks the conclusion of a five-year investigation into Hazel and Melksham Metals by the Environment Agency and Wiltshire Police.
Hazel was warned on several occasions about unlawful waste activities, including illegal disposal of waste on farmland, and processing waste without an environmental permit. He is owner and sole director of Melksham Metals.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “These were serious offences committed by a waste operator who has little respect for the law and the environment. He was motivated by financial gain and carried out unauthorised activities over a number of years. The case should serve as a warning to anyone in the waste industry who thinks they can flout the law.”
Hazel was first caught in August 2011 after an enforcement officer from Wiltshire Council found various waste materials including chalky stone, tarmac road planings and concrete pipes dumped in fields beside the disused Wiltshire to Berkshire canal.
Environment Agency officers visited Queenfield Farm in September that year, where they saw one of the company’s trucks laden with stone waste enter the farm. Waste transfer fines – small particles of waste – were also seen. The officer followed a line of chalky liquid in the road outside the farm back to Station Yard, Melksham Metals’ site, and reported the incident to the Environment Agency. The Environment Agency requested copies of waste transfer notes from Hazel for the previous two years. He claimed the company had never tipped waste at the farm and said the truck had been taking the waste to a permitted site in Chippenham. This contradicted what the driver had told officers.
The February 2016 hearing followed two earlier trials at Swindon in 2014, when Hazel and the company were found guilty of dumping waste.
In November 2015, Hazel and his firm pleaded guilty to a further five charges each relating to unauthorised waste activities. They admitted the unauthorised treatment of controlled waste at Station Yard from 2004 to 2008, breaching a waste control licence, operating a regulated facility without a permit and having waste without authorisation.
- To keep up to date with the latest legal decisions, subscribe to our compliance bulletin.