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  • Co-founder David Corker is a previous Metropolitan Police constable who enjoys an enviable reputation for “great legal understanding allied to superb tactical judgement.”

    Chambers UK 2012

  • "She is a class act: measured, practical and highly intelligent."

    Chambers UK 2018

  • Peter Binning is lauded for his “great experience, ability to work under huge pressure, extensive knowledge of the law and the ability to inspire confidence in clients.”

    Chambers UK 2010

  • "I really rate them. They are clever, efficient and they work collaboratively."

    Chambers UK 2017

  • [Jessica Parker] is very passionate about her cases, she is realistic, she understands the problems that arise and she is very talented.

    Chambers UK 2016

  • David Corker is “amongst the elite group of UK criminal defence lawyers” and is “extremely bright and good at providing a strategic overview, and has excellent client care skills”

    Legal 500 2011

  • They have got a fantastically strong team.

    Chambers UK 2016

  • At Corker Binning, Andrew Smith ‘is a first-class lawyer, and very user friendly’; he leads the [professional discipline] team, which specialises in financial crime.

    Legal 500 2015

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.

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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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