Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Doonin Plant fined £200,000 over illegal waste

Woodened Colliery, Armadale
Image caption Doonin Plant was fined £200,000 for keeping waste at Woodened Colliery without the appropriate licence

A recycling firm branded Scotland's worst polluter has been fined a record £200,000 for storing waste without a licence at a West Lothian colliery.

Cambuslang-based Doonin Plant Ltd was convicted of two charges of keeping hundreds of tonnes of waste in a manner likely to cause pollution.

Company director Gary Doonin, 47, who was found guilty of two similar charges had sentence deferred for a year.

In court he was warned if he caused any further pollution he faced jail.

At Livingston Sheriff Court, the judge said he wanted to see if a community penalty was more appropriate.

Inspectors from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency were called out in January 2010 after residents noticed the waste being disposed of at the site.

'Victim of persecution'

They discovered items which included car tyres, children's clothing and electrical components.

The fine is the largest ever imposed in Scotland for a breach of environmental regulations.

Outside court, Doonin claimed he was a victim of "persecution" by officials of waste watchdog Sepa.

He said that he intended to appeal against the convictions and the fine imposed on his company.

He insisted: "I've done nothing wrong. There's nobody dead and nobody lost any limbs. My record is impeccable.

"At that time I had 10 waste management licence exemptions which allowed me to store up to 100,000 tonnes of waste at any one time."

The court was told that his multi-million pound family firm, founded by his father 50 years ago, would soon cease trading but still had enough assets to pay a fine.

At its peak Doonin Plant, which produced recycled aggregate for major engineering projects such as the M74 extension, employed more than 50 people.

Large-scale operation

John Hamilton QC, for Doonin Plant, said it was wrong of the Crown to describe the company as the worst polluter in Scotland.

"This is a company which obviously has spent time considering its position with regard to responsibility for the environment.

"There was no gas and no evidence of any watercourses being polluted. It's important for the court to consider that the likelihood of pollution was there but it didn't manifest itself."

He said all waste had now been cleared from the former coal bing at Woodend Colliery near Armadale, West Lothian.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Douglas Kinloch said the company had been found guilty of a large-scale operation which involved a "serious and significant breach" of the legislation which posed a real danger to the environment and public health.

He said the fact the firm had been fined for a similar offence only a few months before the 2010 incident and had previous convictions showed a "blatant disregard" for the law.

Ian Buchanan, Sepa area manager, said justice had been done for Scotland's environment.

"By carrying out such activities, the company and its director demonstrated a complete lack of consideration for the environment and we hope the sentence acts as a deterrent to any operators considering breaking the law," he said.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:‬‪ "Today's sentence - which sees the biggest ever fine handed out for an environmental offence - is welcome recognition of the damage that environmental crime can do.

"It sends a clear message to perpetrators - there is no place to hide, illegal action which has the potential to damage our environment will be investigated and prosecuted.‬‪‬"

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