Published: 11:16, 05 August 2021
| Updated: 16:03, 05 August 2021
Fly-tipping offenders must be punished with tougher sentences to match the severity of illegal dumping of waste blighting swathes of countryside, according to Kent's councils.
The 12 district and borough authorities (excluding Medway) and Kent County Council are joining forces to push the Sentencing Council to make changes saying punishments must be made a more suitable deterrent.
A review is taking place into the Environmental Offences Definitive Guidelines laid down in 2014.
The campaign in Kent is being led by the Kent Resource Partnership (KRP) to increase powers to ensure they "fairly reflect the costs incurred by the public purse" in dealing with waste crimes.
Among the calls is for court fines to exceed fixed penalty notice (FPN) fines and to also include the costs incurred by councils and police in bringing a fly-tipper to court.
The councils say there needs to be a further five areas where sentencing powers are made stronger.
These include costs related to the clean-up of fly-tipping on private land and restoring that land to be included in fines paid, treating the offence of fly-tipping first rather than looking at the offender's ability to pay.
Community based sentences should also be brought in for those unable to pay the higher fines in full or in part.
Suspended prison sentences can also be introduced as a greater deterrent for serial offenders and KRP says this has been proven to work as a better deterrent in Buckinghamshire.
Under the demands, it has also been argued second offenders found guilty of fly-tipping should receive a custodial sentence. Currently, another suspended sentence is issued to repeat offenders.
The authorities in Kent are working alongside 150 fellow councils and 10 professional bodies across the country.
It was recently revealed Kent has some of the highest rates of rural crime in the country and farmers, landowners and councils are becoming fed-up with tons of rubbish being ditched on land.
Cllr John Burden (Lab), leader of Gravesham council, said: “Our Environmental Enforcement team is having a great deal of success in identifying the criminals who believe wrongly that it is acceptable to dump waste illegally within our borough.
“However, the time and commitment they are devoting to this is not being reflected in punishments being handed down by the courts.
"We firmly believe sentencing guidelines must be updated if legal sanctions are to be an effective deterrent.
“The courts must have the power to help us protect our local environment in the way our residents rightly expect.”
Speaking earlier this year about the blight of the issue in Dartford, the council leader Cllr Jeremy Kite (Con) said: "This is where I think we should use our contacts with government to make clear that actually there is a big appetite for larger fines.
"If the cost of getting caught is the equivalent of paying the cost honestly, then there is a real problem to those of a low moral standard."
Local authorities are responsible for clearing and investigating fly-tipping incidents and environmental teams have been kept busy since the start of the pandemic with increases in reported problems.
Last month, fly-tippers were caught in the act by Higham farmers Steve Jones and his sons Trevor and Jos who used their tractors to block in offenders dumping rubbish on their land.
Cllr Nick Kenton, chairman of KRP and environment cabinet member for Dover District Council, said: "We are working hard as a partnership to tackle fly tipping, however, we are continuously faced with high levels of fly tipping here in Kent.
“Without an effective deterrent, the number of fly tips will continue to go up, creating a massive burden on our resources and causing a blight on our countryside. We urge the Sentencing Council to respond to the areas we have highlighted for review.”
The partnership is also working together on a campaign call Keep Kent Clean.
Anyone who sees fly-tipping in action can call police on 999. Illegal waste dumps can be reported to your local authority environment team.