Judge slams former NFDC leader Cllr Barry Rickman and his brother Robert Rickman over failing to meet deadline to clear scrapyard in New Forest
THE former leader of New Forest District Council and his brother were slammed by a judge for failing to meet a six-month deadline to clear up their “dangerous” scrapyard.
Cllr Barry Rickman (64) and Robert Rickman (68) were granted a further extension and told they must sort Rickman’s Scrapyard at Lower Mead End Road, Sway, by 8th November.
If they do not, they will face the consequences, the pair were told. Robert was told he could even go to jail.
“I put this to you, man to man: you are at serious risk of going to prison,” District Judge Anthony Callaway told Robert at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court.
Back in March this year Cllr Rickman, of Heron Close, Sway, pleaded guilty to a charge that he knowingly caused/permitted a person to operate a regulated waste operation facility that dealt with the deposit, treatment and or storage of waste, without authorisation of an environmental permit.
Robert, who lives at the Mead End Road scrapyard, admitted a single matter of conducting/causing or knowingly permitting activity in contravention of an environmental permit in relation to the waste operation.
Their sentence was deferred and they were given until 28th July to clear the site.
However, that date had to be further delayed until this morning (Tuesday) when both defendants again appeared before the courts.
Environment Agency (EA) prosecutor Gurjit Bdesha gave an update, saying around 100 “end of life” cars had been cleared from the scrapyard, but a “substantial” amount – about 50 – remained.
Rubbish had been found on the road which contained asbestos, he said, and there was other waste still on the site, including tyres.
Mr Bdesha showed pictures to DJ Callaway that were taken by an EA inspector who visited the site on 1st September. The judge said it showed many vehicles that were "dead, gone”.
Cllr Rickman appeared before the court unrepresented. That was because, he said, he had suffered a loss of income from being forced to stand down from his role as New Forest District Council leader earlier this year . He now worked in the local post office and earned £140 a week, he explained.
He is still a member of the authority – albeit as an Independent and not a Conservative.
Cllr Rickman produced a raft of references from people and told the court if he is sentenced to anything stronger than a discharge he will likely have to stand down from his remaining public roles.
His references included one which revealed he is set to be president of the New Forest Show for 2022, and one from a former Sway police inspector which Cllr Rickman said backs up claims that he had little to do with the scrapyard business. He said it was started by both defendants' late father, subsequently taken over and run solely by Robert, who also lived on the site with their mother until she died.
Cllr Rickman explained he took a “different path” and forged a career as a professional photographer for many years and had little, if any, involvement in the scrapyard.
He was first elected to public office in 1978 and has spent the past four decades serving the community in local politics, he said, adding the case had led to him being “attacked” by political rivals.
Cllr Rickman stressed his “reputation has been permanently damaged” by what has happened.
He explained when his ageing mother and Robert were living together, he paid £7,000 to help them and negotiated a deal to close the scrapyard business and redevelop the family home for a potential sale.
The proceeds would have been used to help the pair, he explained, but when he pitched them the idea they both rejected it out of hand.
Some of the vehicles still on the site had been there when his father was alive, he admitted, and he had been trying to convince his brother to sort the place out since the EA began its prosecution.
But he claimed Robert had an “attitude” towards authority and had developed one towards him – he claimed they had fallen out over the case.
Robert had “ignored or vetoed any concerns I have given or expressed about the situation”, Cllr Rickman claimed, adding: “I do not know what more I could have done.”
He also admitted: “The relationship between us has been damaged – possibly beyond repair.”
Cllr Rickman said Robert had obtained a quote to clear the site from Farwells. However, after his speech, DJ Callaway told Cllr Rickman that he knew the site had to be cleared after the March hearing.
Cllr Rickman said he and his brother were “different characters”, but the judge interjected: “What the bottom line is: this is a dangerous site in an appalling state and it has got to be cleared.”
He turned to Robert, who was also unrepresented, and asked him to state his case, and the pair had tetchy exchanges.
Robert – who said he retired in 2018 from work due to illness – refused to accept some of the cars were at their “end of life” and argued about a licence for the site he claimed to have.
DJ Calloway handed him the photographs, admonished the site further and said he wanted, above all, to take a course of action that would see the site cleared for good.
Mr Bdesha said the EA was prepared to argue the case crossed the custody threshold in respect of Robert, who already has a conviction for flouting environmental laws on his record.
DJ Callaway pointed out that prior to giving a suspended jail sentence, rules dictated he must order for a pre-sentence report.
He adjourned the matter, ordering the completion of such a report. Cllr Rickman, he suggested, was more likely to be fined over the incident.
He listed the case for 8th November, bailing both brothers in the meantime.
Robert protested, however: “The amount of work I have got – I don’t think I will get the work done by then,” he said.
DJ Callaway urged him to get legal representation and retorted: “I have been doing this a long time. If people really want to go to prison then we [judges] have to oblige them.”