A Grantham man has received a suspended prison sentence for deceiving the public about his ability to handle asbestos safely.
A court heard that between 2017 and 2019, Lee Charles of Caldicot Gardens, Grantham acted as a de facto director of Lincs Demolition Ltd in securing highly-profitable jobs by marketing himself as a registered asbestos-removal specialist.
Charles, 40, had customers in Worksop, Newark, and Warsop, as well as Doncaster, Melton Mowbray, Stockport, Stourbridge and Wellingborough.
When disturbed, asbestos is a hazardous substance and carcinogenic - meaning it has the potential to cause cancer.
Charles claimed to be registered with the Environment Agency, though he was neither a specialist nor registered.
Lincoln Crown Court was told Charles pleaded guilty to lying to customers, by giving false paperwork to disguise his deception.
Waste asbestos was stashed in hired storage containers in Welbourn, Lincolnshire, just 200m from a school and close to a Girl Guide centre.
Charles told the owners of the storage space that he wanted to keep tools there.
When he failed to pay the rent on the containers, the owners forced the locks and were confronted with the dangerous contents.
Once exposed, Charles abandoned the storage containers at Welbourn, moving his activities to an unpermitted waste site in Little Hale, near Sleaford, where he continued to store asbestos unsafely, posing a risk to public health.
Imposing a 12-month prison sentence, recorder Paul Mann told Charles, who has a string of previous convictions for offences of dishonesty and breach of court orders, that he “knew the regulatory regime well enough to know that what he was doing was seriously wrong.”
However, he said that he was “just” able to suspend the sentence for a period of two years so that Charles could pay the Environment Agency’s costs and pay compensation to the owners of the Welbourn containers for the not-insignificant costs they had incurred in cleaning up the site.
Charles was told that he must return to Lincoln Crown Court in June for consideration of financial orders, including the potential confiscation of his proceeds of crime.
Charles pleaded guilty to two counts of operating a waste operation without a permit, contrary to Regulations 12, 38(1)(a) and 41(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.
He also pleaded guilty to two counts of keeping or disposing of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm, contrary to Sections 33(1)(c), 33(6) and 157(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Paul Salter, waste crime officer for the Environment Agency in Lincolnshire, said: “Lee Charles’ crimes were not just illegal, but dangerous.
“In spite of repeated warnings and advice from the Environment Agency, Lincs Demolition, under Charles’ direction, put both the environment and public health at risk.
“Asbestos when inhaled causes serious health problems, the careless storage of which presents a significant hazard, with a risk to life.
“Taking Charles’ avoidance of costs into consideration: from appropriate staff training to safe storage, Lincs Demolition avoided business costs of at least £50,000.
“It is imperative that all waste businesses have the correct permits in place to protect themselves, the environment and the public.
“We support businesses trying to do the right thing, only issuing enforcement notices, and penalising businesses as a last resort.”