The father of event rider Lucy Wiegersma has been cleared of depositing illegal waste after using old tyres to build new gallops and schooling facilities at his yard in Highampton, north Devon.
Hendrik Wiegersma, 62, was awarded costs after being found not guilty at the end of an eight-week trial at Exeter Crown Court (7 December). The judge said the case should never have come to court.
The court heard that Mr Wiegersma arranged for bales of old tyres to be buried on his land to improve drainage and provide a springy surface for schooling.
The system had been used at other yards and was developed by Tom Dunn, a businessman from Taunton.
Mr Wiegersma was cleared of two counts of depositing illegal waste on his land after the jury heard that he believed he was doing nothing wrong.
He had already been acquitted of running an illegal waste site, on the direction of the judge.
The prosecution — also involving the directors of the recycling firm that produced the tyre bales — was the largest ever brought by the Environment Agency, at an estimated cost of £2million.
After the verdict, the judge criticised the a gency for bringing the case, which had “cost a fortune”.
Judge Phillip Wassall also condemned the law on using waste tyres in this way, describing it as a “morass” which “needed clarifying”.
Tom Dunn, his father Nigel and fellow businessman Lawrence Poole were cleared of similar charges. The only convictions were for less serious technical offences.
The prosecution had claimed the bales were illegal waste, but the defence argued it was a legitimate form of recycling that benefited everyone involved.
Judge Wassall said: “I simply do not understand why the case was brought against Mr Wiegersma.”
Speaking to H&H after the verdict, Mr Wiegersma’s wife Pippa said it had been “a very stressful time”.
“Hendrik has been on tranquillisers and not sleeping,” she said. “He couldn’t go to Kentucky to watch Lucy this year, because he was being prosecuted.”
Mrs Wiegersma agreed that the law was unclear.
“The rules seem to be so vague. We didn’t think we had done anything wrong,” she added.
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (13 December 2012)