Directors Sentenced and Fined for Running Illegal Waste Wood Operation

In early April 2021 two company directors appeared at the Old Bailey Court in relation to the management of an illegal waste wood operation in Essex.

Mr Finbar Francis Breslin, formerly of Patent House, London E14 6NU and now of County Donegal, Republic of Ireland was found guilty in his capacity as director for causing Prime Biomass Ltd to commit the offence of operating a regulated facility without a permit. He was given a conditional discharge for 2 years and received a 5-year director’s disqualification order.

Mr Mehmet Mustafa of Highlands Road, Bowers Gifford, Basildon, Essex was also found guilty for his role in the same offence and was fined £4,000, given a compensation order of £30,000 to pay the victim who was left with the abandoned wood waste, and was ordered to pay a contribution towards the prosecution costs which totalled £16,000.

A third director was acquitted by a majority verdict.

This hearing followed a 5-week trial which took place at the Old Bailey between October and November 2018. The Environment Agency prosecuted the 3 directors in relation to offence of storing and treating waste wood which exceeded the 500-tonne limit outlined in their waste exemption. This exceedance caused significant dust contamination to nearby businesses and created a risk of fire to the local environment. Additionally, by abandoning the waste, costs were passed on to the landowner.

The Court heard how the directors of Prime Biomass Ltd had contracted with a Swedish company to supply recycled waste wood to the company site in Dover’s Corner Industrial Estate, New Road, Rainham, Essex RM13 8QT. The recycled waste wood would then be treated and transferred to another location before being exported to Sweden.

In January 2013, a T6 exemption was registered by Mr Mustafa on behalf of Prime Biomass Ltd. This exemption permits a company to chip, shred, cut or pulverise waste wood and waste plant matter to make it easier to store and transport, or to convert it into a suitable form to use. On this occasion, Prime Biomass Ltd was permitted to treat or store no more than 500 tonnes of waste wood in any 7-day period at their site.

In September 2013, during a visit by the Environment Agency, Mr Breslin admitted that the site contained 1,200 tonnes of waste wood which contravened the T6 exemption. The company agreed to reduce the waste contained on the site. By 30 October 2013 there had been some progress in reducing the amount of waste. However, at 2 further visits in November 2013 there did not appear to have been much progress in reducing waste. Further visits followed in which the EA observed an increase in waste.

The directors were interviewed under caution. Mr Mustafa intimated that Mr Breslin was principally in control of the site. However, Mr Breslin suggested that Mr Mustafa managed the site.

By February 2014 Prime Biomass Ltd was in liquidation, the directors had left the site leaving the waste wood in place. The waste wood remained at the site until late 2018 when the site and surrounding areas were sold for redevelopment.

In May 2020, the Court of Appeal upheld convictions against both directors.