Prosecuting companies for environmental crimes
If your company receives a stop notice, a warning notice, or even a Court summons in respect of an environmental crime, it is important to respond quickly and appropriately.
Many environmental crimes come out of a variety of fragmented laws across many statutes and regulations and quite a few impose strict liability, i.e. they need not prove fault.
This makes it very easy for regulators to enforce and prosecute environmental offences. If your company receives a warning notice, it must respond directly to the regulator which may, for example, be a water company and often you will need to provide evidence of compliance. If you receive a Court summons it is important to receive advice immediately.
Prosecution costs and discounts
If you enter an early guilty plea, you are often able to receive a discount on any offence fine. This discount is often in the region of a third off the offence fine so, for example, if the offence carries £1,000 fine you may be able to reduce this to £666 by entering an early guilty plea.
You should also expect to pay prosecution costs. This will be for the private prosecutor’s costs as well as the statutory undertaker’s costs.
The earlier in the process you are able to respond, the smaller these costs will be. Occasionally it may be possible to put in an offer for the costs to the prosecutor.
It is also important to note that it is possible to enter written submissions in most cases without the need to pay for a lawyer to attend Court on the day. Again, it is key that you make contact with a lawyer early in the process so that you can ensure that you get the maximum discount on your offence fine available under sentencing guidelines and you reduce the prosecution costs to the lowest possible amount.
Defending companies against environmental prosecution
At Rix & Kay, we have experience of defending companies against environmental prosecutions. If you believe that you have received a notice or a summons and need urgent assistance with responding, please do not hesitate to contact Joanna Bryan in the Commercial Property & Environment team.