The owner of a house clearance business ‘drowning’ with rubbish has been handed a suspended jail sentence after illegally dumping waste at an isolated site in South Lincolnshire, Lincoln Crown Court heard.
Simon Mason, who advertised himself as ‘A1 Man with a van – No job too big’, collected general household waste and fridges from customers who believed he was lawfully disposing of the items.
But Mason stored the waste on land owned by his father at Curly Worlds End, Holbeach and illegally burned it.
Sarah Dunne, prosecuting, said the Environment Agency initially visited the site in April 2018.
She told the court: “There was a large amount of waste. There were 360 fridges some of which had been burned. There were also large quantities of different types of waste.
“He said he collected waste from house clearances and people had paid him to take away fridges. He accepted he had burned some of the waste.
“He was told to stop taking waste and remove the waste that was there. That was followed up in writing. He asked for time to clear the site and was given it.”
Miss Dunne said Environment Agency staff visited the site on five further occasions during 2018 but it was clear Mason was continuing to operate his business.
Mason was given a warning he faced prosecution and Miss Dunne said: “By November 2018 the Environment Agency’s patience was largely exhausted. Officers attended at the site and found 634 fridges and over 700 cubic metres of other waste.”
Mason was interviewed and said he was simply trying to earn a living. He explained that he had collected over 1,000 fridges from an electrical store at £5 per fridge.
He again asked for time to clear the site and although there was a significant improvement at the end of January 2019, a further visit in October 2020 revealed he had been taking in more waste and a decision was made to prosecute him.
Mason, 51, of Curly Worlds End, Bensgate Road, Holbeach, admitted breach of environmental legislation. He was given an eight month jail sentence suspended for two years, with 250 hours of unpaid work and a three month night-time curfew. He was ruled to have benefitted from his crimes by £144,000 and his available assets of £8,317 were ordered to be confiscated.
Judge John Pini QC told him: “You started running this waste disposal business. You went into it with staggering naievity. It’s pretty obvious to absolutely anybody that you can’t dispose of this waste by burning it, putting toxic fumes into the environment. I fail to understand why you did not grasp that.
“Throughout 2019 and 2020 you were continuing to run what you knew was an illegal business.
“You have escaped custody by the skin of your teeth because you are of good character and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. If you repeat this offending, you will go straight inside.”
Sunil Khanna, in mitigation, said Mason had no previous convictions and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
He told the court Mason was a groundworker until he reached his 40s and decided to set up a house clearance business.
Mr Khanna said Mason failed to research things sufficiently and then found he attracted so many customers he was “drowning” under the amount of waste he was collecting.
He said Mason has now begun clearing the site and has reduced the number of fridges to 300.
Mr Khanna said: “He has learned his lesson. He is now going to go back to groundwork which is what he was doing for most of his life. He estimates it will take him between three and six months to clear the site.
“He is extremely embarrassed about coming to court. He has brought considerable shame on his family.”