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Legal or illegal scattering ashes

Is Scattering Ashes without permission Illegal?

Is Scattering Ashes without permission Illegal?

Yes! Well, err maybe, possibly…

Every website you read covering scattering ashes says roughly: You can’t scatter ashes on land without the landowners permission – this is true, you can’t.

Some say: It is illegal to scatter ashes on someone else’s land without permission. Less true I would say, and here we dive in to the murky world of English law and all its definitions..

If scattering on land without permission is illegal, there then needs to be a piece of legalisation that says so.

What is the most likely comparable, well I would say litter – as in essence you are going on to someone else’s land and depositing something (small) that they don’t want and you don’t intend to take away.

Is it littering?

If we consider littering legislation then:

To throw down, drop or otherwise deposit and leave litter in any place open to the air, including private land, is a criminal offence under section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA), (as amended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005). The Mylawyer gives a nice little summery of the law, powers, penalties etc.

The definition of Littering

They have defined litter thus:

Litter is anything dropped in a public place, from sweet wrappers to bin liners or household rubbish. It also includes smoking-related litter.

The CPRE also has a take on this:

The definition of litter is important, as littering constitutes a criminal offence. Hence, the concept must be sufficiently clear because the consequences are serious for those prosecuted in the criminal justice system. The definition is also important in distinguishing the lesser offence of littering from the more serious offence of fly-tipping.

There is no comprehensive statutory definition of litter. In practice, therefore, it has been left to the courts to determine whether a particular item complained of constitutes ‘litter’. From the few decided cases on this issue, it is apparent that the courts have given the concept a wide interpretation. Notably, in the 1995 case of Westminster City Council v. Riding, 15 the High Court took an approach based on the term’s natural or ordinary meaning, stating that the word ‘litter’ in the EPA 1990:

‘should be given its natural meaning of miscellaneous rubbish left lying about. Rubbish left lying about can consist of all manner of things including domestic household waste, commercial waste, street waste and no doubt other waste and no doubt other waste not falling within such description’

Therefore, could we add ashes in this category of litter? I very much doubt it. So, is it legal then to scatter without permission? I would think not.

Will you get prosecuted for scattering ashes without permission?

Waste law is criminal law, so what is the chances of a Local Authority or the Environment Agency bringing a prosecution against someone for scattering ashes? Can you imagine the up roar? For those not cognisant in such matters, the Crown Prosecution Service does do a guide on the criteria that have to be met. As do the Environment Agency who tend to have more experience in this area – Enforcement and Sanction Policy

Now it might be that ashes in this respect are covered under another set of regulations – Nuisance or Public Health for example, but I have not come across anything that seems sensible or suitable. However, we are not lawyers and don’t pretend to be, so if you are a legal brain and come across this post and wish to add your two-peneth … fill your boots!

In conclusion:

It is a dog’s breakfast, it’s not legal, but there appears to be no legislation or case legal that points to its illegality either!


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