Contractor who illegally buried 20,000 tonnes of waste avoids jail
A Co Fermanagh man who saved nearly £2m by illegally burying almost 20,000 tonnes of waste on his land, has been given a 12 month suspended prison sentence.
Judge Paul Ramsey suspended the sentence handed to 51-year-old Stephen Harron for two years after he accepted that the 51-year-old had removed some of the non-hazardous materials at his own cost.
Sitting in Dungannon courthouse, Judge Ramsey said it was also accepted that Harron was bitterly remorseful and ashamed of having to appear in court on such charges.
Harron pleaded guilty to four charges - one of unlawfully depositing waste and three of keeping controlled waste on two parcels of land at his Arney Road home in Arney Skea outside Enniskillen, on dates between January 2008 and May 2015.
Previously, prosecutor Samuel Magee told Omagh Crown Court that an estimated 19,721 tonnes of waste was found on Harron's land, with all but 570 tonnes of it buried.
Mr Magee said that it was estimated it would have cost £1,835,214 to legitimately dispose of the waste, which was both domestic and commercial, but made up of non-hazardous materials. The prosecution lawyer said that Harron had been a registered controlled waste carrier until December 2005, operating two companies - Arney Skip Hire and S Harron Contracts.
In March 2013, officers from the NI Environmental Agency (NIEA) first visited Harron's land and dug eight test pits after finding a number of "mounds of plastic waste".
He claimed it had been left by "two men from Sligo", who had rented the site and whose company had since gone bust.
Mr Magee said waste was found in all but one pit, consisting of plastics, food packaging, carpet fragments, wood, glass, metal, wires, insulation foam and a number of baton ammunition round castings.
Newspapers recovered dated back to 1994, an indication of the age of the site and prior to the introduction of waste management legislation.
Another pit was dug at the other side of Harron's home, and similar types of waste recovered under the surface. He told NIEA officals he had infilled a small area behind a stone cottage in order to create a hard standing area.
In December 2014, NIEA officers again visited the site and saw 16 builder bags of machine extracted peat, together with large piles of plastic waste.
Mr Magee said the following May officers returned to Arney and found "the site continued to contain a significant amount of historical waste consisting of plastics, piping, wiring, tyres, electrical equipment and other waste". They also noted an area of burning.
However, in Harron's favour, the waste above ground, said Mr Magee, "has been removed at his expense ... a somewhat unusual step", and that he had made "significant admissions about the ownership of the site".
Although freed, Harron has another date with the courts, when it will be decided how much, if anything, he must pay-up by way of confiscation.