Page last updated at 19:10 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 20:10 UK

Catching 'industrial' fly-tippers

By Sarah Mukherjee
Environment correspondent, BBC News

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CCTV captures fly-tipping

The term fly-tipping usually brings to mind bin bags and old mattresses.

But the BBC has learned that environmental officials are seriously concerned about what they say is a serious and growing crime.

It can involve thousands of tonnes of construction waste, and cost millions of pounds to clear up.

On Wednesday two men, James Kelleher, from Dagenham, east London, and Patrick Anderson, from the Irish Republic, were sentenced to a total of 36 months for fly-tipping.

The men were accused of dumping at least 14,000 tonnes of waste at 15 sites in London and Essex.

'Groundbreaking prosecution'

Kelleher, 40, and 51-year-old Anderson were sentenced to 14 months and 22 months respectively, for conspiracy to unlawfully deposit controlled waste.

Mr Justice Philpott ordered the men to spend half their sentences in custody and half on licence.

Fly-tipping has connotations of a bootload from a car - this is large scale, illegal dumping, operated as a business
Owen Bolton
Environment Agency

The Environment Agency said it was a "groundbreaking prosecution".

About four years ago an estimated 5,000 tonnes of waste was dumped on waste ground near services in Thurrock, just off the M25.

The "industrial scale" fly-tipping saw small mountains of construction waste strewn across a huge patch of waste ground.

The Environment Agency's case worker, Owen Bolton, spent years piecing together Kelleher and Anderson's activities, linking them to the Thurrock site and many others across London.

He said: "Fly-tipping has connotations of a bootload from a car. This is large scale, illegal dumping, operated as a business"

For the first time, the Environment Agency employed forensic techniques used in other criminal cases - financial and handwriting analysis - to make the link between payments, lorries and people.

Fictitious company

"We traced the lorries back to their office," Mr Bolton said.

"We managed to find out who was paying these people and then managed to track the money and where it was being paid to.

"We also used an intelligence analyst because we had a huge amount of data."

On other sites, Kelleher and Anderson broke in to waste ground awaiting development.

They put up hoardings with fictitious company names, health and safety notices and a mobile phone number for members of the public to call if the so-called construction work bothered them.

There are recent figures of up to 50m for taxpayers for waste cleared up from public land
Paul Gallagher
Environment Agency

Behind the official-looking exterior, however, there was no construction work - just more tipping.

Environment Agency officials said they managed to get away with it partly because, if a site looks official, few people question construction work - particularly in urban areas.

There is no suggestion Kelleher or Anderson were involved in other criminal activity, or in operations outside the South of England, but the Environment Agency says fly-tipping can be a national, organised crime.

'Not victimless'

Det Sgt Andy Higham heads up the National Environment Crime Team, based in Warrington.

He said: "Criminality knows no boundaries and the people committing this type of offence will not be confined to this.

"They will be involved in other kinds of criminal activity, be it drugs, gun-running or whatever."

Environment Agency officers point out this is not a victimless crime.

It costs the UK millions to dispose of the waste legally.

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A look around one of Liverpool's fly-tipping sites

"There are recent figures of up to 50m for taxpayers for waste cleared up from public land," said Paul Gallagher, head of investigations at the Environment Agency's national environment crime team.

"The bill must be vast considering private land. A body of waste is always owned by somebody.

"If we can't detect who's deposited it, unfortunately the landowner has to foot the bill."

The agency is increasingly using forensic techniques, such as financial and handwriting analysis, to catch fly-tippers and says it is aware it needs to raise its game to deal with this lucrative and growing crime.

It is one that is only likely to become more prevalent as landfill sties fill up, and the cost of disposing of all this waste spirals.


SEE ALSO
Cameras used against fly-tipping
31 Jul 06 |  Derbyshire

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