Licences, Evidence
In this case, the respondent (O’Regan), had pleaded guilty to dumping of waste on an unauthorised landfill at a site in Weir Island, Carrigtoohill, Co. Cork. In his defence, the respondent had initially argued that the materials concerned were not actually waste and that the material deposited at Weir Island did not constitute waste on the basis that any waste material which had removed from any of the material deposited on the site. The respondent had subsequently changed his plea to one of guilty and accepted that the materials dumped at the site at Weir Islanddid actually constitute waste. The Judge found that:There is, in any event, ample evidence to justify a conclusion that the materials concerned are waste as defined. The definition of waste for the purposes of the Act is by reference to the European Waste Catalogue (s. 5 of the Waste Management Act 1996). Commission Decision 2000/532/EC updated the European Waste Catalogue with effect from 1st January, 2002. A specific section of the catalogue is headed Construction and Demolition Waste (s. 17) and includes concrete, bricks, tiles and ceramics, wood, glass and plastic and many other materials. Despite, therefore, the position initially adopted by the respondents there is more than ample evidence that what has been deposited at Weir Island is waste. This case is a good example of the Judge setting out some measureable criteria for the existence of waste in a particular situation:1) Section 5 of the Waste Management Act 1996 and the relevant European Waste Catalogue; 2) Section 57 of the Waste Management Act 1996 which requires that ‘waste is being recovered or disposed of’; 3) Section 4 of the Waste Management Act 1996 and the related third schedule, which included the act of ‘deposition in or under land (including landfill)’; 4) The risk of environmental pollution exists. Justice Clarke expanded on the meaning of ‘Risk’. He found that it was not necessary for damage to the environment to actually occur, only that an expert witness can convince a Court that a meaningful risk does exist. During this case, an application for relief was sought using a unique interpretation of the wording of Section 57 of the Waste Management Act. The particular case rested on an interpretation of the word ‘is’. The section states that the court must be satisfied that; ‘Waste is being held, recovered or disposed of in a manner that causes or is likely to cause environmental pollution While the Respondent could not contest the proceedings as he had already pleaded guilty to the charges of operating a waste facility without a licence and to disposing of waste in a manner likely to cause environmental pollution, he did question the validity of the case before the Court on the basis that the wording ‘is’ should require the offence to be ongoing and present at the time of the hearing. This would require the Court to be satisfied that the waste was still being held, recovered or disposed of on the site in question. In this case, Justice Clarke found that no only was he not satisfied that the respondents had not ceased their activity, but to accept the respondents case that the activity must be current at the time of the hearing, would ‘make a nonsense’ of the section of the act.