A RECYCLING firm was handed a record £200,000 fine yesterday after being found guilty of one of Scotland’s worst pollution crimes.
Doonin Plant Limited was fined for illegally burying hundreds of tonnes of waste including car tyres, food packaging and clothing at a disused colliery in West Lothian.
The landmark fine at Livingston Sheriff Court is the largest cumulative financial penalty ever handed out for an environmental offence in Scotland.
Company director Gary Doonin and his firm were found guilty in September of four offences, relating to keeping construction and demolition waste at the former Woodend Colliery, Armadale, without a licence.
Doonin’s sentencing was deferred for a year during which time the sheriff warned the repeat offender that any further offences could see him sent to prison.
Ian Buchanan, area manager of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said: “Justice has been done for Scotland’s environment. The sentence delivered is a positive result for the public, who care about the environment, and legitimate waste operators who have been undermined by the actions of Mr Doonin and Doonin Plant Limited.
“By carrying out such activities, the company and its director demonstrated a complete lack of consideration for the environment and we hope the sentence acts as a deterrent to any operators considering breaking the law.
He added: “The conviction of Mr Doonin himself should also act as a warning to company directors that SEPA will consider offences committed by individuals when investigating environmental crimes.”
However, Doonin claimed outside court that he was a victim of “persecution” by SEPA and intended to appeal against the convictions and fine imposed on his firm, which will cease trading shortly.
He said: “I’ve done nothing wrong. There’s nobody dead and nobody lost any limbs.
“My record is impeccable.”
The court heard that the multi-million pound family firm – founded by Doonin’s father 50 years ago – was set to close down soon, although there were still enough assets to pay a fine.
The mountain of rubbish which Doonin and his firm were found guilty of dumping illegally at Armadale also included carpet, electrical components, plastic bottles and cushions.
SEPA officers visited the site, which is just 400 yards from houses, following complaints from local residents.
The officials found that waste had been left “in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health.”
It is not the first time that Doonin Plant Limited has been convicted for environmental crimes. In 2010 the firm was fined £90,000 after being found guilty of earlier waste offences.
Craig Harris, head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit, said yesterday: “Doonin Plant Ltd and Gary Doonin carried out activities with a total disregard for the environment.”
He added: “The judgment sends out a warning to any other businesses who conduct themselves in this illegal manner.”