People often think that criminal prosecutions are only pursued by the police. But actually, they can be pursued by other regulators too including Natural England. This will typically only happen where significant and/or persistent environmental offending has occurred.

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Natural England prosecutions

Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment. It has various responsibilities, including enforcing the laws that protect wildlife and the environment. Natural England has various tools at its disposal to achieve this, which are known collectively as regulatory enforcement sanctions (RES). These regulatory enforcement sanctions can be handed out to anyone in breach of the rules. They include:

  • Compliance notices
  • Stop notices
  • Monetary penalties
  • Restoration notices
  • Enforcement undertakings

But that’s not all. In fact, Natural England has the ability to pursue criminal sanctions too, such as a caution, prosecution or injunction. It says this course of action is only taken as a last resort. This includes where there is significant and/or persistent environmental offending, and where it is necessary to create deterrence against future noncompliance.

Where criminal sanctions are pursued, Natural England must conduct an investigation in order to establish the facts and level of damage. It must also comply with the legal requirements under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and its Codes of Practice.

Reallife case study

While you may not have heard of any Natural England prosecutions taking place, they do happen. Just earlier this year, a man was prosecuted after he breached a stop notice and continued to plough land of historical importance. The land was regarded as archaeologically significant as many flint artefacts had been found with links to the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras.

The defendant was given a stop notice and ordered to remediate the land, but in 2017 he ignored the notice and continued to plough and lime a neighbouring field as well. He pleaded guilty to breaching the stop notice and was fined £7,500 with five months’ imprisonment in default, along with £24,000 costs.

These types of prosecutions are becoming increasingly common, particularly where sites of specific scientific interest are concerned.

Speak to our criminal solicitor

This case just goes to show that ‘crime’ is not limited to violent or fraudulent offences. Those that damage the environment can also be subject to criminal penalties too.

Whatever the situation, if you are facing criminal sanctions, contact us now at Ashmans  Solicitors for free legal advice.

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