A MAN has been jailed for three years after he used a JCB to “systematically” destroy the West Yorkshire recycling plant where he worked, causing £300,000 worth of damage.
Trevor Lewis, 59, used the digger to wreak havoc at the site after growing disillusioned with his place of work since suffering a knee injury last year.
A court heard one of the reasons he embarked on his rampage was that the site had made it difficult for him to work there by introducing steps during a recent refurbishment.
Bradford Crown Court heard Lewis bought £15 worth of diesel from a garage the night before the rampage at the Eastwood Recycling Centre in Todmorden on July 19 this year.
After arriving at the plant in the early morning, he set a portable building on the site alight before using the JCB to destroy everything he could - tearing down railing and fencing and crushing yards of steelworks.
The court heard he smashed six glass recycling containers, glass bottle cages, a number of lampposts, site gates and several section of perimeter fencing.
Duncan Ritchie, prosecuting, told the court Lewis, of Mayroyd, Hebden Bridge, had been depressed after suffering an injury to his knee 18 months previously.
He said that new steps had been added to the site after the recent upgrade - which had caused Lewis feelings of frustration and depression due to his knee injury.
A complaint had also been lodged against him by a member of the public just days before the rampage.
The court heard he felt unable to tell his managers of his struggles with the steps for fear that they would hire somebody younger to take his place and decided he needed to destroy the site.
On the morning of the incident Lewis left his wife a note saying that he loved her.
Mr Ritchie said: “The defendant used his keys and replaced the company padlocks with his own padlocks. Once inside he gathered used tyres and set fire to the porta-cabin on site.
“The defendant climbed into the JCB and embarked on the systematic destruction of all the equipment on site. He used the excavator to crush or knock down the equipment.”
The court heard that several police units were sent to the site where they saw the portable building completely ablaze.
Mr Ritchie said: “They saw him trying to smash anything which could be damaged on the site.
“A PC approached the site at one stage and the defendant gestured toward the officer warning him away from the gate. He then brought down the gate.
Mr Ritchie added: “The defendant went to some lengths to ensure that he was the only person on the site at the time of the offence.”
Kieron Green, defending, told the court: “There had been a build up of frustration and depression. The site had taken on almost human form. He became obsessed that the site was ruining his life.
“He felt he could not continue unless the source of his despair and depression was removed.”
An estimated 15,000 residents are said to have lost the use of the site - which had only just undergone a £600,000 upgrade - over the period of time it has been closed and the cost incurred to the council is thought to be £5,000 per month.
Sentencing Lewis, Judge David Hatton QC said: “You destroyed just about everything that was capable of being destroyed. The cost of your actions was immense in financial terms.
“It was planned and thought out. Thought out to the extent of obtaining alternative padlocks. I accept you have had and continue to have unhappy symptoms of depression.
“But I cannot ignore the enormous destruction that you caused and I cannot ignore the enormous cost to the public of that destruction and the effect on the community.”
Lewis, a site contractor for SITA UK, was jailed for three years after pleading guilty to a charge of criminal damage, and was also ordered to pay a £120 victim surcharge.
After the case, Jan Lamping, Senior District Crown Prosecutor at CPS Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “Trevor Lewis took a JCB digger and systematically destroyed the recently refurbished Eastwood waste recycling facility.
“This act of wanton vandalism caused an estimated £300,000 damage to the site, as well as some damage to a neighbouring property. It has also resulted in considerable inconvenience to local residents while the site is closed for rebuilding.
“Today Lewis has been sentenced to three years in prison which I hope will demonstrate how seriously this type of crime is viewed by the police, by the CPS, and by the courts.”