Paper firm not responsible for forged reports

7th November 2011

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The Court of Appeal has quashed a papermaker's convictions for pollution offences ruling that the company could not be held responsible for the intentions of an employee who falsified environmental reports

St Regis (now DS Smith Paper) had been found guilty of 19 offences under the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 by Exeter Crown court in April, after a series of breaches.

Three of the offences were related to deliberately misleading the Environment Agency, after it was discovered that a technical manager at one of its paper mills had knowingly created false entries in record required under its environmental permit.

The employee had to complete daily reports detailing levels of pollution in the outflow from the mill’s effluent treatment plant into a nearby river. However, he deliberately entered false readings, which where then passed on to the agency.

The manager was convicted under regulation 32, section 1, subsections g and h of the 2000 Regulations, which state that it is an offence to intentionally make a false entry or, with an intention to deceive, forge any record required under a permit.

At a pre-trial hearing before the original case in the Crown Court, Judge Wassall held the company was responsible for the actions of the technical manager because the employee’s mind could be identified as the “controlling mind and will of the company”, and the jury convicted St Regis Paper for offences under reg.32(1)(g).

However, Lord Justice Moses, Justice Davies and Judge Gilbert QC, ruled that there was no basis in law for attributing the technical manager’s dishonest intention to the company and therefore it was not criminally liable for his actions.

In its judgement, the Court of Appeal argued that: “The importance of avoiding environmental pollution cannot be overstated. But the Regulation has sought to meet that danger in a carefully graduated way imposing both offences of strict liability and those which require proof of intention such as in 32(1)(g) and (h).

“There is, in our view, no warrant for imposing liability by virtue of the intentions of one who cannot be said to be the directing mind and will of St Regis.”

The ruling has resulted in the company, which had rejected the Crown Court’s ruling that it had deliberately falsified records, having three of its convictions quashed.

The trial in April saw St Regis, the largest recycler of waste paper in the UK, fined £162,000 and ordered to pay £225,000 in a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act, after being convicted of 19 pollution related offences.


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