Asbestos rouge trader duped clients and stored material in containers

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A demolition rouge trader has been sentenced after trading as a licensed asbestos removal firm across the UK when he was actually storing the asbestos in a container near a school.


The crown court at Lincoln heard that between early 2017 and 2019, Lee Charles acted as director of Lincs Demolition Ltd and secured a number of lucrative contracts after marketing himself as a registered asbestos-removal specialist across the UK.

Charles worked claimed to be registered with the Environment Agency and acted across across 43 towns and in England but was either competent nor registered to remove the dangerous material.

Once he had secured the contacts he removed the waste asbestos and stored it in containers in Welbourn, Lincolnshire, just 200 metres from a school and close to a Girl Guide centre he also told the owners of the storage space that he wanted to keep tools there.

The owners were not paid for the containers so broke the locks and were socked to find that the containers were full of the dangerous material.

Once he was found out by the owners he abandoned the storage containers and moved on to a second storage site in Little Hale, near Sleaford which he continued to store asbestos unsafely, posing a risk to public health.

The judge imposed a 12-month prison sentence with the recorder Paul Mann told Charles, who has a string of previous convictions that he “knew the regulatory regime well enough to know what he was doing was seriously wrong.”

But even with the callous and calculated actions of Charles, he said that he was “just” able to suspend the sentence for a period of two years so that Charles could pay the Environment Agency’s costs.

The owners of the Welbourn containers would also be entitled to the costs they incurred in cleaning up the site.

Charles was told that he must return to Lincoln crown court in June for consideration of financial orders, including the potential confiscation of his proceeds of crime with Paul Salter, waste crime officer for the Environment Agency in Lincolnshire, saying that “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.

On 13 June the court will decide costs against Charles in favour of the Environment Agency and the proceeds of crime order.