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Down man told he faces stiff jail term over illegal dump

By John Cassidy

Published 22/10/2015

Sentencing was adjourned on Braniff until next month
Sentencing was adjourned on Braniff until next month

A Co Down businessman has been warned by a judge that he faces a "significant custodial sentence'' for storing over 2,000 tonnes of illegal waste on his land.

John Paul Braniff (34), of Carnreagh Road, Ballynhinch, pleaded guilty to two charges of having controlled substances likely to cause pollution to the environment or damage to human health.

The former skip hire owner also admitted unlawfully dumping controlled waste and keeping controlled waste on his land.

The offences were committed between August and October 2011 at two adjacent properties on Carnreagh Road.

Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard that Braniff had previously been ordered by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) to stop keeping waste on his land, but these orders were ignored.

Prosecutor Sam Magee said that during follow-up inspections in 2011 by NIEA officials found further piles of both commercial and household waste on the land.

He said the waste materials included asbestos, tyres, plastics, building materials and rubble.

The prosecutor added that during the inspections a number of fires had been burning, which had left an "acrid smell'' in the air.

Judge Piers Grant was told that in total "2,200 tonnes of mixed commercial and household waste were deposited on his land'' with a loss to the public purse in landfill tax and VAT of around £252,000.

Mr Magee said that in 2009 Braniff was operating Amber Skip Hire and had been served notices to remove waste from his land.

The court was told that Braniff told NIEA officials that "he didn't care if there were court cases and he would not be removing the waste within 30 days''.

Judge Grant heard that because of the illegal dumping a test showed that sulphate levels in the underground water table were almost one-and-a-half-times the standards for drinking water.

Mr Magee said that the prosecution was applying for costs in the case of £4,182.

The court was told Braniff had 31 previous convictions and received a two-year sentence, suspended for three years, in 2014.

Alan Blackburn, defending, said the offences were "reckless as opposed to deliberate''.

Judge Piers Grant said he was making a confiscation order against Braniff for £108,350.

Sentencing was adjourned until next month. Judge Grant ordered him to sign bail twice a week at Downpatrick PSNI station.

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