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Environmental Law Solicitors
If you are facing an investigation related to a breach of environmental regulations, we are here to provide expert advice, support and representation to help you avoid substantial fines and penalties in the event of a conviction, including imprisonment, disqualification and adverse publicity.
Our environmental law solicitors will represent you and your business if you are subject to a notice from your local authority or the Environment Agency. Our service covers the full spectrum of matters, from investigation to challenging notices and representing in the event of prosecution.
It is vital that businesses keep up with developments in environmental law and regulation to avoid being investigated and prosecuted. Our team provides advice and support for companies wanting to understand their liabilities to minimise the risk of a breach.
How JMW Can Help if You Are Under Investigation
Some businesses will have an obvious potential to impact the environment, such as construction companies, energy and utility providers, transportation and farming. If your business could impact the environment, you will need an environmental permit from either your local authority or the Environmental Agency.
We understand the pressure on companies to ensure strict compliance with the law. We can guide you through this process and will represent you if you are investigated and prosecuted in relation to alleged breaches.
Our support includes providing advice upon the receipt of a legal notice from a local authority or the Environment Agency, representation during investigations, lodging appeals, advising at interviews under caution and representing individuals and companies at subsequent court proceedings. Importantly, we have particular expertise in ancillary matters, such as confiscation proceedings arising from a conviction, reputational management, contractual implications and liability attaching to individual directors and officers.
It is important to ensure you are properly prepared for environmental investigations by taking legal advice as early as possible, as decisions taken in the early stages of an investigation can significantly affect later outcomes.
Aspects of environmental law we advise on include:
- Large-scale pollution
- Listed buildings
- Green space issues
- Planning permission
- Protected species
- Noise offences (non-domestic)
- Depositing, treating and disposing of waste
- Civil claims
Our solicitors can provide advice and support on environmental incidents, litigation and compliance wherever and whenever you need it, working with you to protect your interests and achieve the best possible outcome.
The team, recognised by independent legal directories Chambers & Partners and Legal 500, has key insights into the industry, keeping up to date with any changes. When new legislation or guidance comes into force, our team can help you to comply with the new regulations.
What Happens During an Investigation for an Environmental Law Breach?
When the Environment Agency, local authority or another regulator suspect that an environmental offence has been committed, they will carry out an investigation. Investigations involving the following aggravating factors are usually prioritised and pursued:
- Serious environmental harm or harm to human health
- Organised crime
- Overt criminal activity
- Substantial illegal gain
- Threats of violence
Where there are grounds to suspect that you or your company have committed an environmental law offence, the relevant regulator will often invite you to attend an interview under caution, also known as a PACE interview. Here, the regulator will put their case to you and obtain any information from you to assist their investigation. Following this, the regulator will decide whether enforcement action is necessary and what form this will take.
An interview under caution is a very serious matter and it is crucial you seek legal advice from the outset. A solicitor will help you to decide whether you attend the interview, submit written representation or decline the invitation.
Anything said during an interview can influence the course of the investigation and potentially the outcome, so it is vital you receive advice, assistance and representation from specialist environmental law solicitors who can help to protect your interests.
Prosecution for an Environmental Regulation Breach
When an environmental law offence has been committed by a company, an officer of the company (e.g. director or manager) can be held accountable and found guilty of the offence. The Environment Agency or local authority will use their full range of powers against those facing prosecution.
A conviction could result in an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment. Sentences vary depending on how large a company is, based on its annual turnover. The court has recently suggested that it will impose higher fines for environmental offences to send a strong message to other directors and shareholders about their environmental obligations. This could result in some companies paying millions of pounds.
The body overseeing the prosecution also has the power to seek an order disqualifying the guilty person from being a director or manager.
With all this at stake, it’s crucial that you seek legal advice, support and representation if you are being investigated or prosecuted by the Environment Agency or another authority.
FAQs About Environment Law Breaches
What types of environmental law offences can you help with?
At JMW, we can help individuals and businesses in relation to offences such as:
- Carrying out regulated activities without an environmental permit
- Failing to comply with the conditions of an environmental permit
- Failing to register as an authorised waste carrier/broker
- Depositing, treating or disposing of waste without authorisation
- Disposing improperly of chemicals and dangerous substances
- Illegally discharging to air, land and water
- Committing statutory nuisance offences, including noise nuisance
- Contaminating land
- Breaching the Packaging Waste Regulations
- Failing to comply with notices and sanctions
Which bodies regulate environmental legislation?
There are a number of environmental regulators in the UK, including:
- The Environment Agency for England
- Natural Resources Wales
- The Scottish Environment Protection
- The Northern Ireland Environment Agency
Other regulators include:
- Natural England
- The Marine Management Organisation
- The National Measurement Office
- The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
- The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)
- The Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI)
Local authorities also have their own environmental health department that assist in the enforcement of environmental legislation.