B8.7 Civil Sanctions


The Environmental Civil Sanctions (England) Order 2010 [SI.1157]

This Order came into force on the 6th April 2010. It currently only applies to England, but similar regulations are expected that will apply to Wales.

It allows the environmental regulator to impose civil sanctions on a business committing certain environmental offences, as an alternative to prosecution and criminal penalties of fines and imprisonment. This is because taking enforcement action through the courts is very expensive and not always in the public interest. Traffic Wardens and the Police are able to issue minor penalties, which are less time consuming and expensive. However the Environment Agency only had the option of Court action. They therefore tended to ‘play it safe’ and only prosecute in cases where there was a very high chance of success or for very major offences. There was also the problem that the Courts generally have a poor understanding of environmental offences and penalties issued were inconsistent and often very low.

The effect will be that if for example, a company fails to complete waste documentation (Waste Transfer Note or Consignment Note) properly, it will be subject to a fine. Previously this would have probably only incurred a warning letter.

At present the regulators with the new powers are the Environment Agency and Natural England. It is thought that the scope may be amended to be extended to Local Authorities.

It is believed that civil sanctions will make environmental law enforcement more flexible and effective for both regulators and businesses.

The type of penalties that may be imposed are:

  • Compliance notice
    • A written notice that requires steps are taken to ensure that an offence does not continue or happen again.
  • Restoration notice
    • A written notice that requires action is taken to restore harm caused by non-compliance.
  • Enforcement undertaking
    • A voluntary agreement by business to take corrective action to make up for non-compliance.
  • Fixed monetary penalty
    • A fixed monetary penalty, set at a low level for  minor offences. This is fixed at £100 for an individual and £300 for a company.
  • Variable monetary penalty
    • A monetary penalty for more serious offences with a maximum of £250,000. The amount is variable, which is determined by the regulator.
  • Stop notice
    • A written notice to stop an activity which is causing harm.


In some cases, the regulator may also recover costs of investigation or legal advice.

A DEFRA Guidance document on the regulations is avaiable here: DEFRA Civil Sanction Guidance

A shortened version of the DEFRA Guide is available here: DEFRA Civil Sanction Guidance – Short