Longest ever jail sentence for waste crimes

Published on Friday, 24 June 2011 12:43
Posted by Scott Buckler

An unrepentant organised crime boss has been jailed for 4 years for running a massive illegal waste site near Reading and laundering millions of pounds in profits – the longest prison sentence ever handed out for waste crime (June 24th)

A three year investigation by the Environment Agency ended in 2009, when environmental crime officers alongside police arrested Hugh O’DONNELL and two accomplices.

The judge commended the EA for presenting an overwhelming case for conviction against a criminal operation that “was large scale and highly organised”.

With the assistance of Thames Valley Police, the Environment Agency raided an illegal waste site in October 2008, which spread over land the size of five football pitches at Aldermaston, near Reading in West Berkshire – seizing an unlicensed handgun and ammunition, other weapons, stolen vehicles, plant equipment and over £50,000 in cash.

O’DONNELL, 64, of Reading, was subsequently imprisoned in 2009 for four and a half years for possession of the illegal firearm, which was recovered following an Environment Agency search.

Upon his release from prison yesterday O’DONNELL was coincidentally sentenced in Isleworth Crown Court today to 4 years in prison for money-laundering and 22 months for waste offences to be served concurrently.

His accomplices Robert EVANS, 59, and Peter LAVELLE, 28, both of Reading, received 2 years and 18 months respectively for money-laundering, and 14 months and 12 month respectively for waste offences – all to be served concurrently.

Judge Edmunds QC said: “This was deliberate, calculated offending on an industrial scale .. for profit.

You carried on in the teeth of attempts to stop you, and with the clear intention of making as much criminal profit as you could before you were stopped.

“The attitude shown to the enforcement authorities was dismissive and obstructive.”

Among the aggravating features were: deliberate breech of the law, a direct motive of  financial profit, numerous failures to respond to advice or a court injunction to persist.

Angus Innes, Environment Agency Principal Solicitor, said: “O’Donnell’s illegal waste business netted millions of pounds in profit by taking skips or lorry loads of construction and demolition waste into the Aldermaston site to be dumped in an illegal landfill.

“This investigation has been one of the biggest and most complex ever undertaken by the Environment Agency, using intelligence and forensic science to proactively target an organised criminal gang running an illegal waste site.”

“Waste crime puts the environment and human health at risk and undermines legitimate waste businesses.

“This sentence sends out a message that waste crime is a serious offence and you can and will be sent to jail.”

O’DONNELL, who had previously been jailed for six months for waste offences and subsequently for the non-payment of fines, used accomplices LAVELLE and  EVANS to set-up and run the day-to-day operations of a string of phoney businesses – while trying to avoid detection by using alias’s and intimidation.

The Environment Agency’s regional and national Environmental Crime Teams used forensic techniques such as DNA and handwriting analysis, smartwater tracking, fingerprinting, mobile phone and laptop interrogation to track members of the gang.

Activity on the site stopped in late 2008 after the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of O’DONNELL for possession of the illegal firearm. The land had been ranked as the South East’s highest risk and highest priority illegal waste site.

Joint-working with the London Regional Asset Recovery Team [RART] helped identify how the proceeds of these criminal activities were acquired and then laundered though the various trading names or aliases used by O’DONNELL and his associates.

Restraint orders, preventing the disposal of over £1m worth of assets, have also been in place for the last two years.

“We will immediately proceed with a Proceeds of Crime application to the court,” Mr Innes said.

“The Environment Agency wants to make sure that serious waste crime doesn’t pay - we don’t just catch criminals … we want to confiscate the assets they’ve gained from crime.”

The investigation also involved Thames Valley Police and often included other Agencies such RART, VOSA and the Traffic Commissioner, West Berkshire Council, Forensic Science Service and Hampshire Police.

Given the huge size of the landfill, the Environment Agency also undertook a comprehensive and industry standard assessment for potential contamination. This was a major undertaking in 2009 and it showed that the landfill compromised of over 65,000t of contaminated ‘non-hazardous’ classed construction waste. This information will be used to better understand how to manage the land in the future.

Judge Edmunds QC said: “There were many persons from whom the waste originated who paid a commercial rate for the disposal and believed it was being disposed of responsibly.”

Mr Innes said: “Businesses producing waste – such as those in the construction and demolition industry – need to take extra care to ensure their waste is not being dumped illegally at sites like this one”.


Source: Environment Agency

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