Environmental crimes go punished

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UK courts handed out hefty penalties - totalling 11 years in jail, millions of pounds of in fines and over 240 days of community service - to individuals, companies and company directors who committed environmental crimes last year, a new report reveals.

A study from the Environment Agency claims that over £3.5 million worth of fines were handed out to those committing crimes during 2006.

"We're pleased the courts are starting to get the message that environmental crime is a serious offence and handed out over £3.5 million in fines - a rise of nearly £1 million since 2005," Barbara Young, chief executive of the environment agency, said.

"Although this is a good sign, penalties for environmental crime still arent harsh enough. Some fines can be as low as a thousandth of a per cent of a company's worth and despite the higher penalties, the average fine was still only 11,800. The law is there to protect our environment and so those businesses and individuals who think they can cut corners best watch out - we won't tolerate it."

The Environment Agency says that it is making "full use" of all the "tools in its armoury" as it continues to fight against such offences through its Environmental Crime Teams, which operate across the length and breadth of England and Wales.

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