The directors of Warrington-based Daniels Recycling, who pleaded guilty last week to illegally exporting electrical waste to West Africa, have criticised the Environment Agency for its handling of the case.
Daniels Recycling Ltd is run by married couple Mark Daniels, 51, and Lynn Gallop, 52. At Warrington Crown Court last week, the pair pleaded guilty to illegally exporting 187 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) to Nigeria, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Gambia and Togo between 2011 and 2015. They were ordered by the court to pay fines and costs totalling £130,000.
However, in a joint statement published on behalf of the two directors this morning (24 November), the company claims that it was ‘backed into a corner’ to make the guilty plea.
The prosecution related to the alleged discovery of 11 shipping containers full of electrical waste destined for Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania.
The case links to a BBC Panorama programme involving a hidden tracking device fitted to a broken television and tracked to Daniels’ Warrington site, and later to a container at Felixstowe port.
Material from the programme formed a crucial part of the prosecution case, according to the Environment Agency, but Daniels Recycling claims to have discredited this evidence.
According to the company, arrests were originally made in relation to the case in March 2011 and Daniels Recycling claims that it had no further contact on the action by late 2013. The company then claims to have launched a civil action against the Environment Agency, at which point it was told it was due to face trial in March 2014.
The trial was then delayed until early 2015, with solicitors seeking a six-week time slot for the case to be heard. After having been postponed until January 2015, the case was rescheduled to begin on 16 November, but the trial length was shortened to 13 days rather than six weeks, Daniels claims.
During the trial, the Agency repeated its claim that Daniels Recycling had loaded 40-foot containers each with around 15 tonnes of e-waste, containing wrapped items at the front which were made to look like working products. At the back, the containers held hazardous cathode ray televisions and broken fridge freezers which were described as second-hand goods but didn’t work, the Agency said.
In addition to the 11 containers alleged to have been planned for illegal export, Environment Agency prosecutors told the court that the company had illegally exported WEEE to Nigeria, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Gambia and Togo.
The company and its directors, Mark Daniels, (51, of Reynolds Street, Warrington) and Lynn Gallop, (52, of the same address) pleaded guilty to shipping the containers illegally.
Mark Daniels was given a 9-month custodial sentence suspended for two years and ordered to pay £50,000 Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and a £20,000 contribution to costs. Daniels Recycling Ltd was fined a total of £25,000 (£5k per offence pleaded to). Lynn Gallop was fined £450, with £25,000 POCA and a contribution to costs of £10,000.
Ezenwa Ogbonnaya and M2 Ventures Limited also pleaded guilty to exporting 6 of the containers, having bought the waste from Daniels Recycling. Sentencing of Mr Ogbonnaya and his company has been adjourned to March 2016.
Despite pleading guilty to the offences, Mr Daniels and Mrs Gallop have maintained that activities at the Warrington site are carried out legally. The couple also claimed to have taken the plea after having been told that further legal action may follow last week’s trial.
The statement said: “After five years of fighting, hell and stress; we pleaded guilty to a crime we feel we did not commit just to make it go away.
“We feel we were bullied and threatened by the EA for the last five years, to the point where we could not take it anymore.
“We pleaded guilty and took their ‘deal offer’ to protect our family, as we were told if we go to trial – win or lose – the EA would start new proceedings and a new court case would start again for an additional six containers they had chosen not to add to this case. Pleading guilty had never been an option until this threat emerged. And we feel we were left backed into a corner.”
Andrew Higham, who leads the Environment Agency’s National Environmental Crime Team, said: “The rules governing the exportation of waste electrical equipment are in place for good reason, to protect human life and the environment.
“It is illegal to send hazardous waste to developing countries. All organisations handling waste have a responsibility to check they know where their waste is going so it doesn’t end up causing harm to people or the environment.”