Civil Sanctions provide us with new ways to protect the environment. They focus on investment in environmental clean-up rather than paying fines.
Civil sanctions do not replace any of our current enforcement tools. They provide us with a more flexible range so that we can choose the most appropriate enforcement action when an offence occurs.
We will still prosecute serious offenders, but we will be able to use alternative sanctions with legitimate businesses who are trying to do the right thing. They will be able to put right the damage they have done and local communities will see a direct improvement in the environment as a result.
What civil sanctions are
Unlike prosecution, civil sanctions are imposed or accepted by us. There are six types of civil sanctions:
- Compliance notice - a regulator's written notice requiring actions to comply with the law, or to return to compliance, within a specified period
- Restoration notice - a regulator's written notice requiring steps to be taken, within a stated period, to restore harm caused by non-compliance, so far as possible
- Fixed monetary penalty - a low-level fine, fixed by legislation, that the regulator may impose for a specified minor offence
- Enforcement undertaking - an offer, formally accepted by the regulator, to take steps that would make amends for non-compliance and its effects
- Variable monetary penalty - a proportionate monetary penalty, which the regulator may impose for a more serious offence
- Stop notice - a written notice which requires an immediate stop to an activity that is causing serious harm or presents a significant risk of causing serious harm
What civil sanctions are used for
Civil sanctions can be used for offences committed after 6 April 2010 in England and after 15 July 2010 in Wales. Civil sanctions are available for offences under the following regulations:
- Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001
- Environment Act 1995
- Environmental Protection (Disposal of Polychlorinated Biphenyls and other Dangerous Substances) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000
- Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005
- Hazardous Waste (Wales) Regulations 2005
- Land Drainage Act 1991
- Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2008 (England only)
- Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007
- Salmon Act 1986
- Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975
- Sludge (use in agriculture) Regulations 1989
- Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007
- Water Industry Act 1991
- Water Resources (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003
- Water Resources Act 1991
Making sure we use civil sanctions properly
To make sure the use of the civil sanctions is consistent across England and Wales, we have introduced a director-led national panel to oversee their use. We have also increased training for staff on enforcement and provided representatives in areas to support our officers.
Enforcement Undertakings are one of the six new civil sanctions available to us. Those who breach environmental regulation can, where an Enforcement Undertaking is available for that breach, set out how they propose to put the matter right. If we accept their proposals, the Enforcement Undertaking becomes a legally binding voluntary agreement.
The Enforcement Undertaking must identify the steps the business will take to put right any harm caused. It can also include providing compensation for the local community. It must identify what the business will do to return to compliance, in both the immediate and long term.
We have developed an Enforcement Undertaking offer form to help businesses who have breached environmental regulation make an offer to us and provide information on the content and scope of their offer. We have also produced some additional guidance on Enforcement Undertaking related issues:
Enforcement Undertakings accepted
The Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 (the RES Act) and Environmental Civil Sanctions legislation require us to publish information periodically on our use of civil sanctions including Enforcement Undertakings accepted.
See a list of offers accepted and details of the offence and any corrective actions taken:
Use of civil sanctions in practice