Northern Ireland illegal dumping case 'biggest ever'
Files are being prepared for the biggest ever prosecution in connection with suspected illegal dumping in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed in court.
The case involves allegations that up to 100,000 tons of waste, some of it toxic, was unlawfully dumped on farmland just outside north Belfast.
One man has already been arrested and questioned in connection with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) investigation.
With separate civil proceedings under way at the High Court, it is understood that more than £1m in assets have been frozen as inquiries continue.
Complaints over activity at land off the Ballyutoag Road stretch back several years.
A private investigator was also hired by the landowner's legal representatives to produce evidence.
A dossier of photographs has been submitted to the NIEA to assist in its inquiries.
Solicitor Ernie Waterworth, of the Belfast law firm McCartan Turkington Breen, revealed yesterday that criminal proceedings are now anticipated.
He said: "There is a prosecution being considered in relation to the unlawful dumping of waste on my client's property.
"It involves up to 100,000 tons of waste, including toxic waste such as asbestos.
"This has been going on for many years, and my understanding is that when this case goes to court, which is our expectation, it will be the largest-scale illegal dumping ever prosecuted in Northern Ireland."
The lawyer also disclosed that waste was being removed when he went to the site earlier this week.
He said contractors wrongly believed they were acting on behalf of his client.
"It's important that people, especially contractors, understand that they require NIEA authority to remove waste," he said.
"That includes advising the NIEA about where the waste would be relocated.
"I know that these contractors had not received authority or permission from the NIEA."
He added: "It's unusual for those who would have dumped illegal waste to remove it. However, in this particular case it would be in the interests of certain people, not my client, to actually have the site cleared."
A DoE spokeswoman confirmed a probe was continuing, adding: "It is likely a file will be submitted to the Public Prosecution Service."