The number of people jailed for committing serious waste crime offences has nearly trebled in the last three years, according to Environment Agency report

Cracking Down On Waste Crime showed that 16 people were sent to prison last year for major waste crimes including running large-scale illegal waste sites and industrial-scale dumping. Six offenders were jailed in 2009, with the number falling to five in 2010. In total, 335 individuals and companies were successfully prosecuted last year for serious waste crimes, the Agency said.

Courts issued £1.7 million in fines for serious waste offences, nearly £800,000 more than the previous year. The highest fine issued in 2011 was £170,000 - more than treble the highest fine served in 2010 (£50,000). In addition, the courts ordered the confiscation of £2.2 million-worth of assets from criminals who made money through illegal waste activity. That included one Berkshire businessman who was ordered to pay back over £800,000, the Agency said. More than 750 illegal waste sites were shut down in the last year and the Agency is currently conducting 132 waste-related financial investigations.

The Agency said it is detecting more and more sites thanks to a £5 million dedicated waste crime taskforce. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "Illegal waste sites are a blight on our communities which I am determined to root out. The new Illegal Waste Site Taskforce funded by Defra means these criminals have nowhere to hide and we will be relentless in tracking them down. These criminals should know we are coming for them and they will feel the full force of the law."

The head of the Agency's environmental crime team Andrew Higham said: "Waste crime can cause pollution, pose risks to people's health and undercut legitimate businesses. We've stepped up the fight and we are increasingly seeing waste offenders being made to pay for their crimes. "But we are not complacent and there is more to do particularly around cracking down on illegal waste sites. Our new Taskforce will help us break this cycle. However, we can't do it on our own. We need everyone to play their part in helping to tackle waste crime."

Source: The Press Association