Landmark Environmental Case: Man to pay for proceeds of felling crimes in UK first

Landmark Environmental Case: Man to pay for proceeds of felling crimes in UK first

In what is believed to be a first in UK legal history, a landowner will have money confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act for offences under forestry legislation.

Jeff Lane illegally felled more than 8 hectares of native woodland within the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Swansea between April 2019 and September 2020, without the appropriate licence.

Having previously been found guilty of forestry offences at Swansea Magistrates court in April 2022, Mr Lane was handed a confiscation order by the Judge for £11,280 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). He was also fined £1,500 for his offences.

Mr Lane’s offences related to felling without a licence and for noncompliance with an enforcement to replant those trees.

Mr Lane appealed the April 2022 conviction and was tried again in November 2022 where he was found guilty again.

The application for a confiscation order under the POCA was made on 14 June 2024 at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), who also prosecuted Mr Lane for the forestry offences.

The Judge agreed with NRW’s assessment that Mr Lane had benefited financially to the tune of £78,64.68 from his crimes. However, the Judge made a confiscation order which orders Mr Lane to pay £11,280 as his available amount.   

Investigations previously carried out by NRW officers revealed that a total of 8.5 hectares of native and wet woodland located to the north of Ilston – the equivalent of 12 football pitches – had been cut down by Mr Lane without the appropriate licence.

Native and wet woodland are a priority habitat listed under Section 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act. Many trees were uprooted and damaged to an extent where they are unlikely to regenerate, with officers noting it was one of the worst offences of illegal felling they had seen for 30 years.

Nick Fackrell, Forest Regulation Senior Officer for Natural Resources Wales said:

“We have a legal duty to protect the natural environment in Wales and that includes ensuring compliance with forestry regulations. 

“We welcome the outcome and hope this sends a clear message that we won’t hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action to protect wildlife and the environment.

“Using the Proceeds of Crime Act to punish illegal felling is a bold step that we hope will make people think twice before acting recklessly against the environment.

“We cannot take our woodlands for granted. Felling licences are part of the system we have in place so we can manage our trees and woodlands effectively and sustainably, protecting them and making sure they continue to benefit us all now, and into the future.

“Actions like these undermine the work of farmers, foresters and land managers working legally and sustainably to look after our wildlife and countryside, grow our food and produce our timber.”

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Team @ AberdareOnline

Team @ AberdareOnline

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