Northern Ireland

Arney Skea waste-burying man given suspended term

Stephen Harron Image copyright Alan Lewis-Photopress Belfast
Image caption Stephen Harron was given a suspended jail sentence and walked free from Dungannon Courthouse

A County Fermanagh man, who saved nearly £2m by illegally burying almost 20,000 tonnes of waste on his land, has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Stephen Harron, who had pleaded guilty to four charges, was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years.

The judge at Dungannon Courthouse accepted that Harron, of Arney Road, Arney Skea, removed some of the non-hazardous materials at his own cost.

A barrister also accepted the 51-year-old was remorseful and ashamed.

Harron's barrister described him as a "man of straw who has hit financial rock bottom".

"This is a man who bitterly regrets his involvement in these offences... a man never before the court until this," he said.

'Sad set of affairs'

Harron pleaded guilty to one charge of unlawfully depositing waste and three of keeping controlled waste on two parcels of land at his home between January 2008 and May 2015.

The prosecution had previously told Omagh Crown Court that an estimated 19,721 tonnes of waste was found on Harron's land, with all but 570 tonnes buried.

It was estimated it would have cost £1,835,214 to legitimately dispose of the domestic and commercial waste.

The prosecution said Harron had been a registered controlled waste dealer up until December 2005, operating two companies Arney Skip Hire and S Harron Contracts.

Environmental officers first visited Harron's land in March 2013, and dug eight test pits after finding a number of "mounds of plastic waste", which he claimed had been left by "two men from Sligo" who had rented the site and whose company had since gone bust.

The prosecution said waste was found in all but one pit, and included plastics, food packaging, carpet fragments, wood, glass, metal, wires, insulation foam and a number of baton ammunition round castings.

Officials from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) visited the site again in 2014 and 2015.

"The whole area was described as being 'strewn with mixed waste'. Mr Harron was present on the site and informed NIEA officers that he was in the process of removing the waste," said the prosecution.

The defence said Harron had been a licensed waste dealer until a "rather sad set of affairs" resulted in a fall from a lorry, in which he broke a number of bones in his back.

His once thriving businesses, which had been going "from strength to strength" began to decline, he said.

He added that despite his liabilities out-weighing any possible assets, he had "got money somehow" and had spent the last "18 months trying to clear the land".