Louise Clowes, from our Commercial Property Team, said an environmental prosecution often meant more than just a fine. “All environmental offences are subject to a fine, which can be unlimited in the Crown Court, and the more serious cases are also subject to a prison sentence. But that’s not all – being found guilty of harming the environment around your premises can have ongoing repercussions that you may never recover from.”
Louise said a conviction may also lead to local, and in some cases, national publicity. “The Environment Agency publicises environmental convictions on its website as part of its name and shame policy, and the local press often sit in on criminal court proceedings. There will inevitably be damage to your business’ reputation, even if it is found not guilty at the end of the proceedings.”
She said a conviction could also mean your company’s insurance premiums would increase, and your ongoing relationship with the Environment Agency could be damaged.
“You may also find prosecutions and convictions can cause difficulties if you decide to try to sell your business, especially if the buyer asks for additional environmental warranties and indemnities. So it’s vital to take your environmental responsibilities seriously and not just dismiss a breach as nothing to worry about. The consequences could be far more reaching than you imagined, and could literally put the future of your business in jeopardy.”
Louise warned that company directors should also be aware they could be disqualified from acting as a director, and breaching that order would be a criminal offence.