Judge describes Raymond Shepherd as "controlling mind"

The Northern Echo: Raymond Shepherd Raymond Shepherd

HE was "the controlling mind" of a controversial company which has appeared in the dock twice in the last 16 months for flouting environmental laws.

Raymond Shepherd is a highly intelligent but equally belligerent businessman who repeatedly refused to let the rules get in the way of his quest to make money.

Today, his company lies in ruins - and he languishes in a prison cell - after being fined £100,000 and jailed for 18 months at the end of long-running prosecution.

A judge described Albert Hill Skip Hire as "a fairly shadowy organisation" and told its boss that his ignoring of the regulations was "deliberate and determined".

Judge Tony Briggs said: "It is not a company that should continue, and if the result of the fine means it ceases to exist, that is a matter very much in the public interest.

"The evidence has indicated you are entirely unfit to be a company director, and in the circumstances, you fall liable for disqualification, which I impose for ten years."

While the judge described Shepherd as "extremely intelligent" and his barrister labelled him "an intense irritation", council chiefs were far more scathing.

Coun Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure and the environment at Darlington Borough Council, said it was “reprehensible” the way the Shepherds’ had tried to delay justice.

He said: “They stymied early hearings, changing solicitors and barristers so the case could not proceed in a timely fashion and so clearly there will be a cost to these lengthy legal proceedings.

“These are wily and cunning characters and just as they tried to thwart justice so they made the lives of residents in Haughton and Albert Hill a misery over many years with their illegal and anti-social operation.

“I am delighted custodial sentences have been handed down which I hope will be a deterrent to other people who may think about operating in a similarly illegal fashion.”

Coun Wallis suggested environmental health laws in respect of waste disposal needed to be revised.

He said: “Criminals recognise where there are loopholes in the system allowing them to make a quick buck in a relatively short period of time and then disappear off allowing someone to pick up the bill afterwards.

“The law can be left behind and Parliament has to think about that and give agencies like the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and local councils power to act more quickly than they can do at the moment."

The judge described Shepherd - who turned up at court each day carrying bundles of files and often represented himself - as "a highly unusual person".

He described him as "extremely intelligent" and said his self-taught knowledge of law and planning issues was "quite extraordinary" for a layman.

But the judge's sting in the tail came when he said Shepherd had used "utterly untenable" legal argument about planning permission allowing him to dump waste.

"Once you form a view, you can't be persuaded you are wrong," Judge Briggs told him. "Those involved in the waste business must realise regulations are there to be complied with for the public good.

"Your counsel says it is all down to your personality and you got entangled in the law, and formed a particular view about it and were unable to change.

"He is right to the extent that it is part of the picture, but I am far from convinced it was the only part. The other part is that it was for financial gain.

"Albert Hill seems to be a fairly shadowy organisation whose financial arrangements seem somewhat opaque. At its height, it was taking lots of loads of waste.

"We know nothing about its current financial situation, but, bearing in mind no information has been supplied, I have to consider what penalty should be imposed."

James Doyle, mitigating, described Shepherd as having "a puritanical outlook on life" and said: "He is someone who gets up at the crack of dawn to do a hard day's work.

"He entangled himself in the law, in particular planning law and no doubt over the years has been somewhat misguided in his approach. No doubt, over the years, he has developed a misplaced faith in his intellectual capabilities.

"Having said that, I hope Your Honour will form the view that he has expended enormous energy and enthusiasm in regard to his researches of the law, and, however misguided, you may feel he has been reaching various conclusions and his perceptions of the legal position is one he genuinely held.

"The problem has been that he has flatly refused to listen to others who have held contrary views and he has been, Your Honour may feel, inordinately stubborn in his approach.

"Your Honour may take the view that he has, by way of his behaviour over the years, been a source of intense irritation to the various authorities seeking to supervise the various sites."

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