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Hartlepool man fined for obstructing Environment Agency investigators

"Refusal to co-operate with our officers is an offence and we will take action

A Hartlepool man has been fined £500 by Hartlepool magistrates after he obstructed two Environment Agency officers in the course of their duties.

Michael Peter Allen, 54, of Elizabeth Way, Hartlepool, was found guilty yesterday (22 May) of two counts of intentionally obstructing an Environment Officer in the exercise or performance of his powers or duties.

Allen, who operates skip hire and waste disposal services from two units on the Sandgate Industrial Estate, Hartlepool, was prosecuted after he prevented two officers from investigating a report of burning materials at the site in August last year.

When the officers arrived at the industrial estate, Allen showed them around one of his units, where no burning was found. But when asked for access to a neighbouring unit, from which smoke was seen rising, Allen refused to unlock the gates, preventing the officers from getting in.

Allen claimed the land belonged to "Sandgate", but enquiries revealed that it was registered to Allen with the Land Registry. He also told the officers that they "were not getting in there". When cautioned, Allen refused to give his full name, address and date of birth.

Shortly afterwards Allen left the site, leaving the unit locked and inaccessible.

From a raised bank, officers saw that the smoke was coming from an incinerator. There was also a vehicle on the site displaying the logo 'M P Allen Plant Hire'.

Later, Allen contacted one of the officers to apologise for his behaviour. He also claimed that he had been burning wood on the site to provide heat for his shed.

Dave Edwardson, Environmental Crime Team Leader at the Environment Agency, said:
"Some industrial activities can potentially have a serious impact on the environment and local communities if they are not properly regulated. Unlawful activities can also undermine legitimate business, which in itself can have a detrimental impact on the local economy.

"Refusal to co-operate with our officers is an offence and we will take action, where it is deemed appropriate. We hope this case demonstrates the seriousness of the offence."
Allen was also ordered to pay £1,000 in costs and a victim surcharge of £15.