Two former directors of Lawrence Skip Hire Ltd were given suspended prison sentences and community punishment orders at Worcester Crown Court.
The court heard that waste management failures at the company led to two major fires and a pollution incident categorised by court sentencing guidelines as being at the highest level.
David Lawrence, 52, of Kidderminster was the company operations director and designated technically competent manager. He was sentenced to 9 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work.
Andrew Gibson, 55, of Lichfield, was the company chairman and sales director. He was sentenced to 4 and a half months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 90 hours of unpaid work.
The directors ran a waste recycling facility under the trading name of Lawrences Recycling and Waste Management Ltd at The Forge, Stourport Road, in Kidderminster, under an environmental permit. They claimed the site was the largest indoor waste management facility in Europe.
Between August 2012 and December 2012, the company stored excessive quantities of waste at the site in breach of the environmental permit, despite warnings given to the company by the Environment Agency. These failures to properly assess the risk of fire and manage the waste appropriately on the site culminated in a serious fire, when waste self combusted at the company premises in December 2012.
In spite of that fire and further warnings from the Environment Agency and Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, the company continued to accept and store thousands of tonnes of waste to avoid the cost of disposal and in a way that put the environment at risk. These further failures led to a second fire at the site in June 2013.
In passing sentence, His Honour Judge Cartwright, found that both Lawrence and Gibson had been negligent in the lead up to the fire in December 2012. The judge found that in the lead up to the fire in June 2013, both men had ignored warnings even from their own employees, about the risks to the environment, concluding that Lawrence had acted recklessly given that in his position the waste was ‘before his eyes’ and Gibson had continued to act in a negligent manner and continued to encourage customers to send their waste to the site.
In mitigation, the court noted that both Lawrence and Gibson had pleaded guilty and were of good character, with no previous convictions.