Contaminated Silt and Marine Licensing

As noted in the text, the deposit or disturbance of contaminated silt can present serious environmental problems. This was recognised by the Court of Appeal in R v Frampton [2012] EWCA Crim 2697; [2013] Env LR 18.

The appellant was sentenced to a fine of £25,000 and costs of some £44,000 following conviction for depositing contaminated silt in Falmouth docks, contrary to the provisions of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 which requires deposits of substances or objects at sea to be licensed. The equivalent provisions are now in Part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The statutory port authority and owner of the docks had let a contract to the appellant’s company (he was chairman, a director and 45% shareholder) for the development of a marina which included the removal of large quantities of silt from under a wharf which was to be demolished. The owner/statutory port authority was aware that the silt was heavily contaminated but made no provision for this in the contract and misled the planning authority and consultees on the issue. The silt was excavated with a digger and redeposited a short distance away.

The port authority/owner pleaded guilty to the offence, and was fined £70,000, ordered to pay costs of £160,000, and was subject to a confiscation order of £400,000. The appellant’s company also pleaded guilty: however, it had by then gone into administration. The appellant pleaded not guilty in the Crown Court, but was convicted and fined.

On appeal, arguments that the judge had misdirected the jury were rejected: the word “deposit” was an ordinary word, to be given its normal meaning. An appeal against the fine was also rejected. The Court stressed the importance of preventing pollution and that the potential for harm had been considerable, with the possible accumulation of toxins in the food chain (para. 37). The appellant, in the context of a large and lucrative contract for his company, had turned a blind eye to the risk.

Text reference: 1-04


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