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Faversham woman on the run for 10 months is jailed for helping run illegal dumping ground at Thirwell Farm

A Faversham woman who went on the run in the hope of derailing a trial involving her family is behind bars.

Lucy Mete had owned land on which an illegal dumping ground was run.

About 135 lorry-loads of soil and builders’ waste were dumped and treated at Thirwell Farm. Picture: Environment Agency
About 135 lorry-loads of soil and builders’ waste were dumped and treated at Thirwell Farm. Picture: Environment Agency

But when her father, James, 57, and a sister, Billie, went on trial at Maidstone Crown Court, the 27-year-old went missing.

Now after handing herself into police after 10 months she has been sent to jail for 30 weeks.

Mete began sobbing and screaming after realising she wouldn't receive a suspended sentence like sister Billie.

Her screams could be heard in the court at Maidstone for several minutes after Judge Martin Huseyin passed sentence for the breach of bail.

He had heard how Billie Mete, 27, who was sitting in the public gallery, had managed the facility with her and sister on land adjoining Thirwell Farm in Drove Lane, Hernhill.

Thirwell Farm in Drove Lane, was turned into a dumping ground. Picture: Environment Agency
Thirwell Farm in Drove Lane, was turned into a dumping ground. Picture: Environment Agency

Lucy was found guilty in her absence of breaking environmental law following a six-day trial last year.

The Environment Agency prosecuted her father and his daughters after discovering 135 lorry-loads of soil and builders’ waste were being dumped and treated on the land between 2014 and 2016.

The work needed an environmental permit which it didn’t have.

Lucy had owned part of Thirwell Farm, where she also lived, allowing her father to use the farm to deposit and treat the materials against the law.

In a letter to the judge Lucy claimed she had been given told by "a paid adviser" she could wreck the trial by staying away.

Thirwell Farm, in Hernhill near Faversham Picture: Andy Jones
Thirwell Farm, in Hernhill near Faversham Picture: Andy Jones

The judge said he accepted her adviser - who was paid £400 a time - was "malignant and manipulative and unqualified" and had tried to disrupt the trial.

He said because of that he would reduce her sentence for both the illegal tipping and the breach of bail.

But he told her that she had owned part of the land and was fully aware of the illegal activity.

She then sobbed: "I've had no benefit whatsoever."

After passing the immediate 30-week sentence, she said: "Are you serious?"

Judge Martin Huseyin. Picture: Andy Payton
Judge Martin Huseyin. Picture: Andy Payton

As she was reluctantly led away, Billie shouted: "Why wasn't it suspended. I want to appeal."

Prosecutor Gordon Starkes told the court the trial had cost the Environmental Agency more than £40,000.

Chris Back, environment manager for the Environment Agency in Kent, said after the trial: "This was a deliberate breach of the law.

"James, Lucy and Billie Mete all knew their actions amounted to a criminal offence, but still allowed waste to be dumped, kept and treated at Thirwell Farm for a number of years with no permit from the Environment Agency."

The jury had heard how officers from the Environment Agency and police raided the farm following a number of reports of waste being tipped there.

"James, Lucy and Billie Mete all knew their actions amounted to a criminal offence, but still allowed waste to be dumped"

Officers found many large piles of waste soils and rubble, as well as machinery for processing it.

During the visit, environment officers turned back a lorry that had arrived to tip waste.

Both the lorry driver and the owner of a building supplies firm gave statements to the Environment Agency saying James Mete was their main contact at the farm.

On 10 July last year Billie Mete was sentenced to six-weeks in prison, suspended for two years.

She was also given 28 days in jail for breaching the terms of her bail by not attending court for sentence in March, but walked free from court having already served more than half this amount in custody.

James Mete still has to be dealt with.

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