Environment Agency's 'rushed' prosecution fails

A Devon equestrian centre owner who used tyre bales at his arena has been cleared of dumping illegal waste.

Hendrik Wiegersma, 62, of Highampton, near Beaworthy, was taken to court by the Environment Agency (EA) in one of the biggest cases of its kind.

But after an eight-week trial, costing an estimated £2m, Mr Wiegersma was found not guilty of all charges.

Judge Phillip Wassall criticised the EA prosecution, claiming the law over the use of tyre bales was unclear.

Mr Wiegersma - the father of international three-day eventer Lucy Wiegersma - was acquitted of running an illegal waste site on the direction of the judge.

'Cost a fortune'

Exeter Crown Court was told Mr Wiegersma buried the tyres bales to improve drainage and provide a springy surface for horses to ride on - a system used at other centres.

The tyre bales were from Recycled Construction Systems, owned by Somerset businessman and amateur showjumper Tom Dunn.

Mr Dunn, 26, of Cutsey, Taunton, was charged with four counts of depositing waste without a permit, but he was found not guilty.

Baled tyres - generic The law over the use of tyre bales is unclear, the judge said

Mr Dunn's father Nigel, who drove the tyre bales to the equestrian centres, was also cleared of two charges.

The prosecution claimed the tyre bales were illegal waste because some failed to meet a technical specification called PAS 108, but the defence said they posed no danger to the environment.

Mr Dunn was found guilty of exporting waste tyres illegally to Vietnam and his company Recycled Construction Systems was convicted of storing tyres illegally at the Westerhope Units at Dunkeswell, near Honiton.

Judge Wassall said the EA should have sought clarification, rather than "rush" into a prosecution.

"I feel there was a rush to prosecute this case at a time when it really needed reflection and mature thinking," he said.

"This trial has cost a fortune - a great deal of public money and should be examined very carefully."

As part of the same prosecution, businessman Lawrence Poole, of Greendale, Woodbury Salterton, was cleared of depositing waste without a permit.

He was also cleared of abandoning a trailer full of tyres in Haldon Forest, near Exeter, but his company, Aardvark, was convicted of breaching a duty of care to prevent tyres from falling from an insecure trailer.

Paul Gainey from the Environment Agency said Judge Wassall's comments would be considered.

"This was a complex trial and we welcome the jury convicting three of the defendants," he said.

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