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Slurry Spill Farmer Let Off with Donation to Charity Rather Than Prosecution

Slurry Spill Farmer Let Off with Donation to Charity Rather Than Prosecution by Environment Agency Without Consultation with Angling Clubs Affected

The Angling Trust & Fish Legal have raised concerns that the Environment Agency (EA) chose not to prosecute a farmer who polluted Wellow Brook in Somerset with 150,000 gallons of slurry, killing hundreds of fish. The farmer was allowed to make a donation of £5,000 to the Bath & Avon Rivers Trust (BART) charity and the EA’s costs (amount presently unknown) through a new mechanism called an Enforcement Undertaking (EU), and avoided getting a criminal record. One EA representative said it was the worst pollution she had seen in 17 years and another referred to a ‘tsunami’ of slurry.

Despite acknowledging “the serious environmental harm the slurry had caused” the EA accepted the EU, rather than prosecute. The Angling Trust & Fish Legal are also concerned that:

  • it took the EA over 12 months from the conclusion of its investigation to confirm what action it would be taking;
  • the EA failed to comply with its own guidance about consulting victims before accepting the EU (Fish Legal’s two member clubs affected knew nothing about the EU until they read about it in a news article) and;
  • the EA’s powers to accept EUs instead of prosecuting are likely to be widened this April to include environmental permitting offences, which could mean that EUs become more widespread.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal raised the issue with the Chairman and Chief Executive of the EA at a meeting on 24th March 2015.

Fish Legal is awaiting the EA’s response to an information request about this case, after which it expects to challenge the EA’s complete lack of consultation with (or even notification of) the angling clubs directly affected by this decision.

Mark Lloyd said:

“It is absolutely unacceptable for the EA to fail to consult victims, whose interests have been significantly damaged, before deciding whether to let polluters off with donations to charity instead of prosecution. The Agency needs to recognise that the decisions they make directly affect angling clubs and other riparian owners, whose fishing rights are worth billions of pounds. Potential polluters also need to know that they will be punished with a criminal record if they trash the environment. We have raised this issue at the highest levels in the Agency and will be pressing for guarantees that they will always consult with victims in future.”

Contact: Fish Legal - Eastwood House | 6 Rainbow Street | Leominster | HR6 8DQ | Tel: 01568 620447

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