Demolition contractor admits deceiving customers over asbestos removal

A demolition contractor who had customers in Melton has been given a suspended prison sentence after falsely claiming he was an expert at removing asbestos.

By Nick Rennie
Thursday, 10th March 2022, 5:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th March 2022, 5:44 pm
Court news EMN-220228-161211001
Court news EMN-220228-161211001

Lee Charles (40) admitted lying to customers and giving false paperwork showing he was a registered specialist in the removal of the hazaradous substance from sites, when he appeared at Lincoln Crown Court.

The court was told that between 2017 and 2019 he was a de facto director of Lincs Demolition Ltd and secured lucrative jobs by claiming he was a specialist in asbestos removal.

Having duped his customers, waste asbestos was stashed in hired storage containers in Welbourn, Lincolnshire, just 200 metres from a school and close to a Girl Guide centre.

Charles, of Grantham, told the owners of the storage space that he wanted to keep tools there, the court heard, and when he failed to pay the rent on the containers, the owners forced the locks and were confronted with the dangerous contents.

Once exposed, he abandoned the storage containers and relocated his activities to an unpermitted waste site in Little Hale, near Sleaford, where he continued to store asbestos unsafely, posing a risk to public health.

Imposing a 12-month prison sentence, recorder Paul Mann told Charles, who has a string of previous convictions for offences of dishonesty and breach of court orders, that he ‘knew the regulatory regime well enough to know that what he was doing was seriously wrong’.

However, he said that he was able to suspend the sentence for a period of two years so that Charles could pay the Environment Agency’s costs and compensate the owners of the Welbourn containers for the not insignificant costs they had incurred in cleaning up the site.

Paul Salter, waste crime officer for the Environment Agency in Lincolnshire, said: “Lee Charles’ crimes were not just illegal, but dangerous.

“In spite of repeated warnings and advice from the Environment Agency, Lincs Demolition, under Charles’ direction, put both the environment and public health at risk.

“Asbestos when inhaled causes serious health problems, the careless storage of which presents a significant hazard, with a risk to the life.

“Taking Charles’ avoidance of costs into consideration: from appropriate staff training to safe storage, Lincs Demolition avoided business costs of at least £50,000.

“It is imperative that all waste businesses have the correct permits in place to protect themselves, the environment and the public.

“We support businesses trying to do the right thing, only issuing enforcement notices, and penalising businesses as a last resort.”

Charles pleaded guilty to two counts of operating a waste operation without a permit and two counts of keeping or disposing of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm.

A date in June will be fixed for the court to decide costs against Charles in favour of the Environment Agency and the proceeds of crime order.

The use of asbestos in the UK was subject to an outright ban in 1999, after certain types became outlawed in the 1980s.

In 2015, illegal waste activity was estimated to cost over £600 million in England alone, with the figure for the UK likely to be much higher.