On 4 January 2011, businesses will see the introduction of new enforcement powers, also known as civil sanctions, being used by The Environment Agency in England and Wales.
These will provide The Environment Agency with a greater range of options in the enforcement of environmental offences against businesses. As well as prosecution and criminal penalties being imposed by a Court, The Agency will be able to impose civil sanctions without commencing court proceedings. This will ensure that the sanctions are proportionate to the level of seriousness of the offence and the financial circumstances of the offender.
There are 6 main civil sanctions which will be available to the Agency to use against businesses:
- A compliance notice is a written notice to prevent an offence continuing/recurring, designed to target the breach and its causes
- A restoration notice is a written notice aimed to restore the harm caused
- An enforcement undertaking is a voluntary agreement by the business concerned to make amends for the harm caused
- A fixed monetary penalty of £100 for an individual and £300 for a company can be imposed for minor offences
- A variable monetary policy with a maximum of £250,000 can be imposed for serious offences to deter future breaches and remove any financial benefit gained
- Finally, a stop notice is a written notice to stop an activity which is causing harm until a business becomes compliant
At present, civil sanctions are to be used for a limited number of offences to cover hazardous waste, water resources and packaging waste sectors. They may, however, be expanded to include more offences in the future.