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  • The "absolutely phenomenal" Robert Brown is a criminal defence specialist who is "full of ideas, utterly committed to his clients, realistic in his advice and leaves no stone unturned in preparation."

    Chambers UK 2016

  • Peter Binning is highlighted in Chambers HNW 2016, who is recommended as: "He has exceptional judgement, particularly when defending individuals in big cases. He's an expert tactician and is very easy to work with."

    Chambers HNW 2016

  • Andrew Smith is "extremely clever, realistic and tactical".

    Chambers UK 2018

  • "They are among the top few 'big hitter' firms for private crime, and are among the few I would recommend to anyone who needed representation. They give their clients a top-notch service and are prepared to go the extra mile."

    Chambers UK 2018

  • "They're very well respected for their defence work. They provide an approachable boutique service, while also having the flexibility to respond quickly to changing circumstances and the capability to deal with large and complex investigations and prosecutions."

    Chambers UK 2017

  • Peter Binning is "very good at the strategic aspects and knows how to prepare and marshal evidence for the best forensic effect."

    Chambers UK 2018

  • They have carved out a practice that gives an absolutely first-class service.

    Chambers UK 2014

  • [Gemma Tombs is] a “tremendous asset to the firm”. She acts for individuals and companies on criminal and regulatory matters.

    Chambers UK 2010

Environmental crime

The Environment Agency (EA) is an active prosecutor of small and medium sized businesses, as well as their directors and officers. The financial, practical and reputational damage associated with an EA prosecution is enormous. But the law on which such prosecutions are brought – particularly concerning waste disposal and exports – is often ambiguous. Partly for this reason, the EA has in recent years witnessed the collapse of a number of its prosecutions. As well as misunderstanding the law, the EA has also been criticised for paying little heed to the commercial realities of businesses targeted with a criminal investigation but which have previously received no meaningful guidance or regulatory oversight from the EA.

If your business learns that it is subject to a criminal investigation by the EA, it is important to instruct a law firm with expertise both in EA prosecutions and the criminal law generally. At Corker Binning we have experience of a number of high-profile EA investigations and prosecutions, including cases brought into environmental incidents including alleged water/air pollution, or cases of alleged non-compliance with waste regulations, including the storage, disposal and export of paper, plastics and metals. We are aware of the evidential issues that often arise in these cases. We have experience of using these issues to persuade the EA not to prosecute.

At Corker Binning we are also able to draw on our wider experience of criminal law to adopt a strategic approach to each case: we know how to prepare company directors for interviews under caution; how businesses should respond to search warrants or informal requests for documentation; how a business can seek to operate despite a criminal investigation; how to analyse evidence forensically with a view to its admissibility and weight in any future criminal trial; how and when to articulate the right line of defence or mitigation; and how best to negotiate a non-prosecution outcome that can be justified by the facts of a particular case.

This last point is particularly important. Businesses are frequently able to avoid prosecution by the EA by accepting a civil penalty under the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2009. The EA regularly uses these penalties, which include monetary penalties, variable monetary penalties, compliance notices, restoration notices, stop notices and enforcement undertakings. We negotiated one of the first enforcement undertakings for a company that breached the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations.

If a prosecution is unavoidable, we are able to draw on our daily experience of acting in all types of criminal cases in the Magistrates Court and Crown Court. Our advice is realistic and informed by recent developments in the law. All businesses prosecuted by the EA must now take account of the higher sentences available under the Sentencing Council’s Environmental Offences Guideline, which came into force on 1 July 2014. The guideline makes it clear that most environmental offences, if prosecuted, now carry significant fines and the potential for imprisonment of directors who are regarded as complicit in the commission of an offence. They make the need for expert criminal advice at the earliest stage of an EA criminal investigation all the more important – both in terms of ensuring the business survives but also in terms of protecting the personal liberty of those controlling the business.


If you would like to talk about your case with one of our specialists in environmental crime, please call us on 020 7353 6000 and ask to speak to our partners Peter Binning or Andrew Smith.

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