Beware the green fines

Just when you think the Environment Agency (EA) is working with you, a new fixed penalty system is arriving in January, mainly due to industry not taking environmental management seriously. Companies and environmental managers need to get their houses in order to avoid fixed fines.

From 4 January, the EA will start to use new enforcement powers, called civil sanctions. These new powers will give environmental regulators a wider range of options to pursue a business that commits certain environmental offences and will be alternatives to prosecution and the criminal penalties of fines and imprisonment. I would estimate that, by the end of 2011, most companies will have had fixed penalty fines imposed.

The new system will allow the EA to take decisive action, which is proportionate to the offence and the offender, and reflect the fact that most offences committed by businesses are unintentional.

Our government believes civil sanctions will make environmental law enforcement more flexible and effective for both regulators and businesses. Civil sanctions will not replace any current enforcement tools. They will provide a more flexible penalty range. Serious offenders will still be prosecuted.

The new fixed-penalty fine will be suitable for offences with minor or no direct environmental impact, such as paperwork and administration failures.

Fixed monetary penalties are set at 300 for business and 100 for individuals, with discounts for early payment. Where a Fixed Penalty Notice is served, payment of the penalty discharges the liability. However, where a Fixed Penalty Notice is imposed but not paid, the recipient will be prosecuted for the original offence.

John Roberts can be contacted on

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