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Equestrian centre boss cleared of tyres scam

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 08, 2012

ON TRIAL:  Hendrik Wiegersma.

ON TRIAL: Hendrik Wiegersma.

THE father of international three-day eventer Lucy Wiegersma has been cleared of taking part in a scam to bury old tyres.

Hendrik Wiegersma, 62, who runs an equestrian centre at Highampton, near Beaworthy, was awarded costs after being found not guilty at the end of an eight-week trial.

The directors of the recycling firm which ran the scheme were cleared of all the most serious charges as the judge criticised the Environment Agency for bringing the case while the law on the subject remained unclear.

The prosecution at Exeter Crown Court is the largest ever brought by the Agency and the total cost is thought to be around £2 million.

Mr Wiegersma was cleared of allowing the deposit of controlled waste after the jury heard he believed he was doing nothing wrong and was baffled by contradictory letters and advice to him and his daughter Lucy.

He accepted payments from a Woodbury-based company called Recycled Construction Systems to use square bales, each made out of 100 old tyres compressed into cubes, to build new gallops and schooling facilities. The bales were buried to improve drainage and provide a springy surface for horses to ride on and the same system has already been used at other arenas around the area including Bicton in East Devon.

The jury's decision has thrown the entire regulation of the used tyre business into chaos and Judge Phillip Wassall called for an urgent review of the law to clarify what he described as an opaque morass.

The idea of using tyre bales to build riding arenas was the brainchild of Somerset businessman and amateur showjumper Tom Dunn, who used his con nections in the horse racing and eventing world to recruit customers.

The tyres were installed at the Wiegersmas' stables in North Devon, at the Stidstone Riding Centre at South Brent, where they were later removed, and at international eventer Nick Gauntlett's base at Chescombe, Gloucestershire.

Mr Wiegersma was cleared of two counts of depositing illegal waste on his land. He had already been acquitted of running an illegal waste site on the direction of the judge.

Dunn, 26, of Cutsey, Taunton, was cleared of four offences of depositing waste without a permit after the jury ruled his basic operation was not illegal. His father Nigel, who drove the tyre bales to the equestrian centres, was cleared of two charges. Fellow businessman Lawrence Poole, of Greendale, Woodbury Salterton, was cleared of two similar charges and of abandoning a trailer full of tyres in Haldon Forest.

Tom Dunn was found guilty of exporting waste tyres to Vietnam illegally. His company, RCS, was convicted of storing tyres illegally at the Westerhope Units at Dunkeswell, near Honiton. Poole's company Aardvark was convicted of breaching a duty of care to prevent tyres from falling from the insecure trailer at Haldon Hill. Sentencing was adjourned until the new year.

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