A BUSINESSMAN who pocketed nearly £1m from illegally dumping waste and flouting environmental laws will initially pay back just £14,000 following a judge’s ruling.

But Raymond Shepherd effectively owes the state £980,207 after he was found to have criminally benefitted by this figure due to his involvement in the former Darlington-based Albert Hill Skip Hire.

Judge Tony Briggs said that although the company had made a lot of money, there was no evidence 61-year-old Shepherd had a high living lifestyle, while he also had no traceable bank account.

The judge was also not persuaded that Shepherd had a legal interest in two farms in Cumbria and homes he had previously lived in, which the Environment Agency wanted the judge to rule as realisable assets.

Judge Briggs said Albert Hill Skip Hire had incurred large expenses while it was operational and while Shepherd was in a position to have access to significant amounts of cash, “he is not a hoarder of money”.

He also said he was fairly confident that no hidden assets existed.
A proceeds of crime hearing at Teesside Crown Court heard that Shepherd, who claimed to be a shadow director of the company, is now on benefits and all that was available to confiscate was £14,000, the value of a car and van.

He will now face six months jail if he does not pay the confiscation order imposed on him. Should Shepherd come into further assets, however, more money could be clawed back in order to meet the £980,207 figure, meaning he has a debt for life.

The Northern Echo:

Waste spilling out of a storage facility used by Albert Hill Skip Hire, in Dodsworth Street, Darlington

The court heard evidence from Shepherd’s partner who said she shared a house with him, but he was not named on the mortgage, while Shepherd himself said he was merely a sitting agricultural tenant on the farm holdings.

When officials began clearing the site used by Albert Hill Skip Hire in Dodsworth Street, Darlington, they found huge amounts of household waste, up to the roof and spilling out of the building it was stored in.

There were also two serious fires at the site during the period that the company - now wound up - was based there.

Shepherd, who was jailed for 18 months in December 2013 after being found guilty of operating a waste facility without a permit, depositing waste without a permit and failing to comply with a suspension notice, said: “I have not been treated fairly. I have done nothing wrong.”

Asked about the money he made, Shepherd, who said he was only paid a £100 a week wage from the firm which operated a second site at Whessoe Road, added: “Do I look like a man who has made a million?”

Last May Shepherd’s son, Tony Leigh, of Winston, Darlington, who also has a conviction for illegally dumping waste, was jailed for three years after he paid just a fraction of the £350,000 he was ordered to pay under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Councillor Nick Wallis, a cabinet member for leisure and the environment at Darlington Borough Council, said: “There was literally a hill of rubbish towering over the site, 50ft, 60ft high, it was unbelievable. The fires – the second one in particular – had a profound impact on the health and security of local residents.

“He [Shepherd] stuck two fingers up to all of the different agencies involved and thought he could get away with it, flouting regulations, there was the stench coming from the tip, there was the completely out of control hours of operation.

“It was quite literally a cowboy operation, but a lucrative one.”

A resident in Shepherd’s home village of Rookhope, County Durham, described him as a “wrong ‘un”.

He said: “For someone who has amassed that amount of money, he cuts a rather scruffy figure."

Rachael Caldwell, a waste team leader with the Environment Agency in the North-East, said Shepherd had been “completely money driven”, with a “disregard for the environment”.

The Agency’s area director for the North-East, Oliver Harmar added: “This is a debt that will follow Raymond Shepherd around for the rest of his life. 

“We’ll continue to take action against those operating outside of the law and the regulations.”