Waste criminal given three months to repay £2.1m

Environment Agency vehicles

One of the largest ever confiscation orders obtained by the Environment Agency (EA) has been imposed on a convicted waste crime offender, who ran an illegal waste haulage business.

John Bruce has been given three months to pay £2.1m following a confiscation case at Worcester Crown Court. Judge Nicholas Cole branded 48-year-old Bruce a “career criminal” and said that he would face seven years in jail if he did not pay the money. Bruce received a 26-month jail sentence in May 2018 for operating an illegal waste site at a site near Pershore in Worcestershire. He was initially prosecuted for six offences where waste totaling 25,000 cubic metres was either dumped, buried or burned at the site.

The court heard that the defendant had grown his business and he had invested in various properties, land and cars. Bruce also owned a large selection of expensive items of heavy plant, which he hired, bought and resold. Additionally, Judge Cole ruled that a trust he had set up was a sham and that the money held in a bank account operated by the trust formed part of his criminal benefit.

An EA spokesman said the case was the second largest confiscation order it had obtained nationally: “The case shows that we’re not just content to prosecute those who run illegal waste sites, we’ll also come after them to get back the profits they made from their illegal activities and to recoup taxpayers’ money spent on pursuing them,” the spokesman added.

Scaffolding firm’s fitness “seriously tarnished”

A restricted haulage firm whose fitness to operate was described by a traffic commissioner as having been “undoubtedly and seriously tarnished” has had its licence cut by two vehicles, leaving just one to operate.

SJ Scaffolding, with an operating centre in Billericay, Essex, appeared before the Eastern region TC Richard Turfitt after a maintenance investigation revealed substantial numbers of prohibitions and fixed penalty notices; a failure to notify a change in maintenance provider and material changes relating to fitness and finance. The investigation followed a previous unsatisfactory maintenance investigation in 2018.

The vehicle examiner who compiled the report requested a written explanation from company director Shaun Collins, but was not satisfied with the response, with Collins emphasising his experience in the industry and arguing that the identified defects were not as severe as stated. Subsequent attempts to call and email the director were not successful. In a written decision, the TC said documents showed driver defect reports were all marked “nil”, despite PMIs identifying driver detectable defects. A fleet check of one HGV found that the nearside outer wall tyre had damage and cords exposed and inspection sheets did not contain a signature confirming roadworthiness.

Summing up, the TC said the evidence showed there had been “persistent offending with a substantial number of prohibitions…resulting from ineffective management control and insufficient or no systems and procedures in place to prevent operator licence compliance failings.” He questioned how likely it was that the operator would comply with the O-licence regime and added: “There must be some doubt as to that ability although the undertakings offer some hope. The failure to deliver the audit as per the undertaking at grant seriously undermines the weight which I can attach to these undertakings. Fitness is undoubtedly and seriously tarnished,” he said.

“There is a clear need for deterrent action so that this operator and other operators are left in no doubt that this level of shortcoming will not be tolerated and that there can be no repeat. I have taken account of the impact on the business and the licence will be curtailed by two vehicles to allow one vehicle only, with immediate effect.”