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Larger fines for polluters


LARGER FINES for construction industry polluters are on the cards as part of a proposed Government crackdown.

The Home Office is pushing for introduction of new sentencing guidelines which could lead to significant increases in fines imposed on polluters by magistrates. Far more cases could also be passed up to Crown courts, which have the power to impose even larger penalties.

Responses to a consultation document put out by the Government's Sentencing Advisory Panel are expected by 17 November and the guidelines could be up and running early next year. 'Sentencing is going to get tougher and fines will rise,' predicted Justine Thornton, a barrister with law firm Simmons & Simmons' environmental department.

Paul McKenna, a partner with law firm Cameron McKenna's environmental group, warned the construction industry would be particularly hard hit:

'The Environment Agency has said explicitly it will focus on construction sites,' he said. The Government's Contaminated Land regime, to be introduced early next year, and Integrated Pollution Prevention & Control legislation, expected in February, will set tighter parameters still.

The SAP wants to see fines imposed for breaches of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and Water Resources Act 1991 raised to levels that would prove a deterrent to larger organisations. It is responding to the EA's complaint that, at the moment, low fines mean it is cheaper for many firms to pollute and be charged than to pay for prevention.

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