A RECYCLING firm branded Scotland’s worst polluter for illegally dumping waste at a former colliery has lost an appeal against a record £200,000 court fine.
Doonin Plant Ltd was convicted of the unlicensed burial of hundreds of tonnes of waste, including car tyres, food packaging and clothing, at disused Woodend Colliery in Armadale, West Lothian.
Company director Gary Doonin, 48, was found guilty alongside the firm of keeping waste in a manner likely to cause pollution.
The landmark fine issued at Livingston Sheriff Court in December 2012 was the largest cumulative financial penalty ever handed out for an environmental offence in Scotland.
Scientists from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) claimed the waste produced noxious gas affecting local and global air quality and poisonous fluids capable of killing fish and plants in local rivers.
Lawyers for the company – which has now ceased trading – and Mr Doonin challenged the conviction and the size of the fine at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh. But appeal judges threw out the case, agreeing the business carried out a “serious breach” of the Environmental Protection Act from a “desire to make profit”.
During the appeal, Doonin’s lawyers argued Sheriff Douglas Kinloch failed to instruct the trial jury on the definition of the word “likely”. One charge said the firm’s actions were “likely” to cause pollution and lawyers contended jurors may not have understood the word meant “probably”.
The company claimed the waste was only being kept on a “temporary basis”, and would not be there long enough to cause pollution.
In his written ruling, appeal judge Lord Bracadale dismissed this argument as no conflict over the word arose at trial, and it was “unnecessary for the sheriff to define a word in common usage”.
Doonin’s legal team also claimed prosecutors failed to prove the firm was not operating under an exemption to waste management regulations allowing waste to be stored providing it did not exceed 20,000 tonnes.
The appeal judges rejected the claim, ruling that it had been open to Cambuslang-based Doonin Plant Ltd to prove they came within the exemption.
The appeal judges also dismissed claims the fine was “excessive”, adding Sheriff Kinloch had information before him at sentencing that Doonin could pay a “substantial” penalty.
After being sentenced, Mr Doonin claimed he was a victim of “persecution” by Sepa. He said: “I’ve done nothing wrong. There’s nobody dead and nobody lost any limbs.”
Mr Doonin’s solicitors, John Pryde and Co, declined to comment on the case yesterday, or contact their client for comment.