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UK Prosecutions for Fly Tipping Offences at Record Low

Government figures demonstrate that the number of successful prosecutions brought by councils against fly tippers has fallen to a record low.

In 2016-17, local authorities in England secured only 1.571 fly tipping prosecutions which is a fall of about a fifth in comparison to figures of 2,209 in 2007-08.

Contrary to the figures shown by the government, in 2016-17 there were more than one million fly tipping incidents in England. According to figures published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) this is the equivalent to 114 new cases every hour.

The Local Government Association (LGA), who represent councils in England have stated they want a more effective legal system. The government have also said that councils have more power to fine fly tippers.

Irrespective of the increase in the amount of fly tipping incidents, the number of successful criminal prosecutions has fallen to a record low.

A change in the law has also seen the number of fixed penalty notices issued to fly tippers double, with 55,997 notices handed out across England in 2016-17.

The service director for Barnsley Council, Paul Castle has stated that council budgets and the introduction of fixed penalty notices have meant that local authorities could now take a different approach to fly tipping offences.

He further commented that every year, the council has to clear up 400 tonnes of waste, costing up to £300,000 per year.

Mr Castle thinks that due to the limited amount of time and money the council has, trying to take every fly tipper to court does not work well enough. He continues stating that fining fly tippers has proved to be the more effective deterrent in many cases.

Current penalties for fly tipping are the following:

  • Fly- tipping offenders convicted at Magistrates Court may face up to 12 months imprisonment or a fine of £50,000.
  • For those convicted in Crown Court, they can be given an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment.
  • For small scale fly tipping offences, councils are also able to issue fixed penalty notices of between £150 and £400.

The LGA Environmental spokesperson, Martin Tett said that Litter and fly tipping is environmental vandalism. Clearing up this vandalism is costing councils more than £57m per year. Money which could be better spent on other services such as; protecting children, tackling homelessness or caring for the elderly.

The government has responded to a call from councils to be able to apply fixed penalty notices for small scale fly tipping which is step in the right direction.

Mr Tett further noted that when councils take offenders to court, they need a faster and more effective legal system, meaning that fly-tippers are given hard hitting fines for more serious offences.

 A spokesperson from Defra stated that fly tipping was unacceptable and damaging the landscape which is why there has been a crackdown on offenders by working with the Sentencing Council to strengthen sentencing guidelines and by giving councils the powers to hand out on the spot fines for those offending.

It has been made easier for vehicles suspected of being used for fly tipping to be stopped, searched and seized. Defra is continuing to work with local partners to stop the crime.

Deborah Robinson, Regulatory Solicitor comments:

“While prosecutions have fallen, those who are prosecuted and then convicted face potentially serious consequences. Not only the reputational impact of a criminal conviction, but the risk of a hefty fine or custodial sentence.

The advice is simple – if you are disposing of waste, whether personal or business, make sure that you know what your responsibilities are and take action to make sure that you comply. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself subject of a fly-tipping prosecution it is vital that you seek early expert advice.

At Cartwright King we have a team of expert regulatory lawyers who can advise and represent you throughout the proceedings.”

If you require any advice in relation to a fly tipping offence or another Regulatory Law matter, please call our team on 0808 168 5550 or email

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