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Environmental Law Solicitors
If you or your business are facing an investigation and prosecution by the Environment Agency, we are here to provide expert advice, support and representation. A conviction for a breach of environmental laws can lead to substantial fines, director disqualification, adverse publicity and, in the very serious cases, imprisonment.
Our environmental law solicitors can provide compliance advice and support for companies who want to understand their responsibilities in order to minimise the risk of a breach of environmental laws.
Should you receive a notice of non-compliance from your local authority or the Environment Agency, we will represent you and your business at an interview under caution. In the event of prosecution, we will represent you at Magistrates’ or Crown Court, and can also represent you in proceedings arising out of prosecution such as the confiscation of assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
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 in the unfortunate event of a breach of the permit conditions.
Our support includes providing advice upon the receipt of a legal notice from a local authority or the Environment Agency, representation during investigations, advising at interviews under caution and representing individuals and companies at subsequent court proceedings.
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
- 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, you will be invited to attend an interview under caution, also known as a PACE interview. Here, the allegations will be put forward to you and you will be afforded the opportunity to submit your defence and provide evidence information 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 to 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 expert advice, assistance and representation from specialist environmental law solicitors who can help to protect your interests.
Prosecution for an Environmental Regulation Breach
If you are prosecuted for an environmental breach your case will be heard before the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court. When it is suspected that an environmental offence has been committed by a company, an officer of the company (e.g. director or manager) must appear in court on behalf of the company.
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. A conviction could also lead to ancillary orders such as directors disqualification or confiscation of assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2001.
It is crucial that you seek legal advice, support and representation if you are being prosecuted by the Environment Agency or another authority.
FAQs About Environmental 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 assists in the enforcement of environmental legislation.