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Boss of Albert Hill Skip Hire in Darlington jailed after prosecution costing £500,000
THE boss of a skip hire company at the centre of the illegal dumping of toxic waste was behind bars tonight (Thursday, December 12) as an unprecedented case costing more than £500,000 came to an end.
Raymond Shepherd, 58, was described as "the controlling mind" of the firm which operated two sites in Darlington which repeatedly breached environmental regulations.
His brother Paul, 56, and nephew Jack, 24, were also involved in the company - Albert Hill Skip Hire Ltd - which was said to have dumped waste on "an industrial scale".
The three men appeared at Teesside Crown court today (Thursday) along with former director Brian Wright, 53, to be sentenced following a lengthy Environment Agency prosecution.
Raymond Shepherd was jailed for 18 months after being told by Judge Tony Briggs that he had deliberately ignored the regulations to make as much money as possible.
His younger brother - responsible for dumping asbestos on an access road to one of the sites, in Whessoe Road - was given a six-month suspended jail term with supervision.
Both brothers were on legal aid.
Wright, the former transport manager, was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid community work after he admitted operating a regulated facility without a licence.
Jack Shepherd was fined £350 after he admitted allowing unlawful waste from Albert Hill - plasterboard - to be dumped at the family farm near Bishop Auckland, County Durham.
A fifth man, Raymond's Shepherd's son Tony Lee Shepherd, will be sentenced next week, after his barrister was unable to make it to the hearing.
He had previously pleaded guilty to allowing both West Musgrave Farm and another site at nearby Hackworth, Shildon, to be used as waste operations without permits.
Following a nine-week trial which ended last month, the Shepherd brothers and the company itself were found guilty of all but one of a raft of charges brought by the EA.
The controversial company had been accused of considering itself "above the law" and only caring about making money, having regularly flouted orders to stop its activities.
The Dodsworth Street site in Albert Hill, Darlington, it formerly operated from was said to be full to the brim of stockpiled waste, including uncovered asbestos sheeting.
And the 60-acre West Musgrave Farm, belonging to the Shepherd family, and another site used by the firm in Whessoe Road, Darlington, were also illegally turned into landfill sites.
Lee Fish, prosecuting, described the case against the Shepherds, who had denied all the charges, as "unique" and said the bill for the EA alone was almost £200,000.
Raymond Shepherd and Albert Hill Skip Hire were each found guilty of operating a regulated facility without a permit and failing to comply with a suspension notice.
Both Raymond Shepherd and the company were also convicted of two counts of unlawfully depositing controlled waste, while Paul Shepherd was also found guilty of operating a regulated facility without a permit.
Rufus D'Cruz, representing Paul Shepherd, said he could barely read or write, was "vulnerable and compliant with others", and played a "transient" role in the company.
Despite being registered as a director, he did little more than drive, said Mr D'Cruz, who told Judge Briggs: "He was reliant on his brother and followed his directions."
Mark Currer, representing Jack Shepherd, who is Paul's son and a farmer, said: "He is a man who has worked hard all of his life and who continues to do so."
James Doyle, for married father-of-three Wright, said he effectively left the company in 2005 to start his own business, but "naively" kept his name as a director.
The trial which ended last month was the second costly prosecution after Raymond Shepherd and the company had been found guilty last year of other similar charges.
They were convicted of operating Dodsworth Street without a permit, breaching the conditions of that permit and illegally using Whessoe Road as a landfill site.
Mr Fish told the court: "All the sites were used for the depositing and disposal of waste on an industrial scale. The illegal activities continued for a significant period."
Judge Briggs disqualified both brothers from being a director for ten years.