No good deed goes unpunished. The Daily Telegraph reports that Linda Bracey, a businesswoman,was taken to court by Labour-run Waltham Forest Council after giving away a cardboard box to a passer by. It ended up by fly-tipped and Mrs Bracey was identified as it had her company name on it.
It is accepted that she didn't fly-tip but the company was prosecuted on the grounds that they were passing on trade waste to an unauthorised person. Waltham Forest spent £15,000 in legal fees before it was thrown out.
Judge Alex Milne QC said:
“This company is charged with failing to take reasonable measures to ensure that the transfer of controlled waste from its premises was only to an authorised person. The first question is therefore were the cardboard boxes in question waste?
“Packaging such as boxes received by a company like Electrosigns is not waste when it is delivered to the company. Nor do boxes become waste as soon as the contents are removed.
“If a company chooses to keep and re-use boxes, they remain the property of the company and an asset. If the company keeps boxes for its own use but then chooses to give or sell boxes to another party that is not discarding them."
Mrs Bracey said:
“A cardboard box with our name on it was found on some rubbish. The rubbish had nothing to do with us at all. The council realised the rubbish had nothing to do with us, but then tried to prosecute us because we had given a cardboard box to someone for their own use, and they were not licensed to carry trade waste.”
“Not only are the council, as the judge said, wasting taxpayers’ money, but also preventing the re-using of a cardboard box, since the company that gives a person a box could be facing prosecution. The world’s gone mad,”
I'm all for tough action against fly-tippers when it is taken against the true culprits. But the behaviour of Waltham Forest Council is "ineffective authoritarianism" to use David Cameron's description of the Labour Government.
Instead of acknowledgoing the blunder, Cllr Clyde Loakes, the Labour councillor and Cabinet Member for the Environment, grumbed that tthe judgment was "unhelpful." He said there were almost 100 successful prosecutions for waste offences. No doubt these are overwhelmingly right and proper. But it is astonishing that he can't see that pursuing this case was unreasonable. "Reduce. Reuse. Recycle – get taken to court by Waltham Forest Council."