‘Scotland’s worst polluter’ avoids jail

THE boss of a recycling firm branded “Scotland’s worst polluter” has escaped being sent to prison for environmental offences.

Gary Doonin. Picture: Vic Rodrick

Gary Doonin, whose company Doonin Plant was hit with a £200,000 fine for polluting offences in December 2012, was ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work within a year under a community payback order.

He told Livingston Sheriff Court that he suffered from a bad back but claimed through a lawyer that he was “on the mend” and fit enough to do the punishment.

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Doonin, 49, tried earlier this year to have his convictions for illegally storing waste overturned but judges threw out his appeal in February.

Yesterday, he finally appeared for sentence – almost two years after a jury found him guilty of two environmental crimes.

During Doonin’s trial the jury was told that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency had found hundreds of tons of commercial and industrial waste being stored at the disused Woodend Colliery, in Armadale, West Lothian.

Car tyres, carpets, electrical components, metal and timber were all discovered buried under soil.

It was described as a large-scale operation that involved a “serious and significant breach” of environmental laws and posed a real danger to the environment and public health.

At its peak Doonin Plant, which produced recycled aggregate for major engineering projects such as the M74 extension, employed more than 50 people. Following the convictions, Doonin and his fellow directors put the family firm out of business and made its employees redundant.

Sheriff Douglas Kinloch told Doonin he had been found guilty of serious offences and the High Court had upheld the fine of £200,000 imposed on the company.

He said: “As director of the company you must surely at least have been aware of the activities of the company which resulted in it having been prosecuted previously.

“Although you appear as a first offender, it is difficult therefore to regard you as a man of unblemished character in relation to environmental legislation.”

The sheriff reminded Doonin that he had promised at an earlier hearing not to impose a prison sentence if there was no further offending.

He added: “The jury found that your activities were likely to cause pollution, and it seems to me that the appropriate sentence is unpaid work so that you can put something back into the community.

“I’m aware that you have been banned for life from operating in the area of goods transport and I do not consider that any other disqualification [as a director] is necessary.”