A fly-tipper has got into a fine mess after illegally dumping rubbish in a nature reserve.
Steven Richard Mealin, 35, of Staindrop Street, Hartlepool, left large amounts of garden and general waste in the Limekiln Gill area of Horden, near Peterlee, twice last summer.
The nature reserve has become a fly-tipping hotspot in recent years, and is located within the Durham Coastal Special Area of Conservation.
Mealin has been ordered to pay more than £1,000 after appearing at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court.
The court heard that a neighbourhood warden from Durham County Council discovered garden and general waste near the car park on August 26 last year.
CCTV footage showed three men unloading the waste from the same van.
More waste had been left there when the warden returned to the same spot on September 7, and CCTV footage showed the two people responsible had used the same van.
The van was registered to Mealin at his father's address, in Staindrop Street, the court heard.
Mealin pleaded guilty to two charges of depositing controlled waste without a permit and a further charge of failing to assist an authorised person to conduct a fly-tipping investigation.
The final charge came after Mealin failed to respond to a warden's numerous attempts to contact him, and also did not respond to a legal notice issued requesting him to attend an interview within 14 days.
That meant the other men involved could not be identified.
In mitigation, Mealin said he lived with his father, who is partly dependent on him, and had removed the waste as a favour for a friend.
He was fined £360 and was ordered to pay costs of £642.79 and a £36 victim surcharge.
Ian Hoult, the council’s neighbourhood protection manager, said: “This prosecution demonstrates that fly-tipping will not be tolerated in County Durham.
“The courts take a particularly dim view when it occurs in nature reserves like Limekiln Gill.
“Water in the gill runs into neighbouring national nature reserves and then into the sea, meaning there is a serious risk of pollution.
"When green waste is deposited, there is also a risk of invasive species gaining a foothold, which could restrict the growth of native species.”
The area is covered by CCTV as part of anti-fly-tipping campaign Operation Stop It!
The campaign is run by the council, Durham Police, the Environment Agency and Crimestoppers.