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Man ordered to pay for proceeds of felling crimes in UK first

19 Jun 2024 3 minute read
Photo of woodland in 2020 after felling. Image: NRW

In a first in UK legal history, a landowner who felled native trees on an area equivalent to 12 football pitches will have money confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act for offences under forestry legislation.

Jeff Lane illegally felled more than 8 hectares of native woodland within the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Swansea between April 2019 and September 2020, without the appropriate licence.

Noncompliance

Having previously been found guilty of forestry offences at Swansea Magistrates court in April 2022, Mr Lane was handed a confiscation order by the Judge for £11,280 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). He was also fined £1,500 for his offences.

Mr Lane’s offences related to felling without a licence and for noncompliance with an enforcement to replant those trees.

Mr Lane appealed the April 2022 conviction and was tried again in November 2022 where he was found guilty again.

The application for a confiscation order under the POCA was made on 14 June 2024 at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), who also prosecuted Mr Lane for the forestry offences.

The Judge agreed with NRW’s assessment that Mr Lane had benefited financially to the tune of £78,640.68 from his crimes. However, the Judge made a confiscation order which orders Mr Lane to pay £11,280 as his available amount.

Priority habitat

Investigations previously carried out by NRW officers revealed that a total of 8.5 hectares of native and wet woodland located to the north of Ilston – the equivalent of 12 football pitches – had been cut down by Mr Lane without the appropriate licence.

Native and wet woodland are a priority habitat listed under Section 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act. Many trees were uprooted and damaged to an extent where they are unlikely to regenerate, with officers noting it was one of the worst offences of illegal felling they had seen for 30 years.

Nick Fackrell, Forest Regulation Senior Officer for Natural Resources Wales said: “We have a legal duty to protect the natural environment in Wales and that includes ensuring compliance with forestry regulations.

“We welcome the outcome and hope this sends a clear message that we won’t hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action to protect wildlife and the environment.

“Using the Proceeds of Crime Act to punish illegal felling is a bold step that we hope will make people think twice before acting recklessly against the environment.

“We cannot take our woodlands for granted. Felling licences are part of the system we have in place so we can manage our trees and woodlands effectively and sustainably, protecting them and making sure they continue to benefit us all now, and into the future.

“Actions like these undermine the work of farmers, foresters and land managers working legally and sustainably to look after our wildlife and countryside, grow our food and produce our timber.”

To report an illegal felling please call NRW’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0300 065 3000 or report it online Natural Resources Wales / Report an incident


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David
David
1 month ago

“The Judge agreed with NRW’s assessment that Mr Lane had benefited financially to the tune of £78,64.68 from his crimes. However, the Judge made a confiscation order which orders Mr Lane to pay £11,280 as his available amount.” So crime does really pay!

Another Richard
Another Richard
1 month ago
Reply to  David

That might depend on whether the comma is misplaced or a digit is missing, though I suspect from the wording that Lane may be up £67,000 or thereabouts, with most of his profit beyond recovery, In my view he should have been forced into bankruptcy if he couldn’t cough up the full sum.

Ap Kenneth
29 days ago
Reply to  David

Although the timber was sold for £78K, how much would the contractor and trucking of the timber have cost? Could that explain the discrepancy or a large part of it? £67K seems a large figure to ignore?

Andy
Andy
24 days ago
Reply to  Ap Kenneth

It shouldn’t make any difference how he spent the proceeds of crime his order should be £78k if he chose to spend it on contractors and trucking that’s up to him. Also if when looking for the £67K the investigation finds more then the available amount can be uplifted.

Arwyn Thomas
Arwyn Thomas
29 days ago

There’s many people strifing to make a difference and it takes only one Idiot to destroy the effort to make with greed and corruption well done Sir you have been given the cap of idioce.

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