Custodial sentences handed down for waste site operators following extensive fire

Following a successful prosecution by the Environment Agency (EA), a husband and wife have been sentenced for operating illegal waste sites in Yorkshire.

As reported by the EA, investigators found that Stuart Bedford had been running sites in Bradford and Doncaster without the required environmental permit, with waste being kept “in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health”.

The EA noted that both operations “caused unacceptable disruption to local people and risk to the environment” and a major fire broke out at the Bradford site in November 2020, resulting in significant disruption to the local community, including closures to schools and businesses. The EA added that more than 14,300 school pupils were affected by the incident.

As reported by BBC News, the fire broke out on 16 November and was not extinguished until 5 December. The site had been storing 600,000 tyres at the time of the incident, and at its peak, 100 firefighters attended the blaze, which the prosecution said reportedly cost the fire and rescue service £1.1 million.

It is understood that just a month prior to the fire, EA officers had served an enforcement notice to the operators of the waste site ordering them to clear the “large piles of waste tyres”. Prosecuting for the EA, Joseph Millington said: “Mr Bedford could be in no doubt of not only the illegality of his actions but the concerns the authorities had about him.

Both Bedford and his wife, Vicky Bedford, were sentenced at Bradford Crown Court on 25 June 2024.

Judge HHJ Gibson said: “Stuart Bedford, there is no doubt in my mind that you deliberately breached the law. You were experienced in the storage and disposal of tyres. You know from an early stage that the number of tyres you stored on the site was vastly more than you would have been legitimately able to store under an exemption issued for that site…

…As far as the fire itself is concerned, you were reckless in the standard meaning of that word. You went ahead and stored the tyres anyway regardless of the risk. You were being paid to take these tyres and valued the tyres at the Bradford site at £1 million.”

Stuart Bedford received a 12-month and 8-month prison sentence, to be served concurrently, for a total of 12 months’ imprisonment. Meanwhile, Vicky Bedford was given a 12-month community order plus a 15-day rehabilitation activity requirement (RAR).

It is understood that both husband and wife were arrested in Spain with international arrest warrants before returning to the UK.