Two scrap metal collectors were fined £525 each after failing to face court for polluting the air when they burnt insulation off copper cabling.
They were among a trio who ran off after the police helicopter joined a search of the towpath beside the Erewash Canal at Stanton Gate.
All were later charged with a breach of the Clean Air Act on July 25 last year, after police handed the case Erewash Borough Council.
A £100 fine was imposed on jobless Martin Bardill, 26, of Sherwin Road, Stapleford who pleaded guilty when he faced Southern Derbyshire magistrates. He must pay £75 prosecution costs and a £15 government surcharge.
But fines of £525 each were ordered from James Beecroft, 27, of Longdon Close, Bramcote and Scott Smith, 33, of Norbury Way, Sandiacre. They must also each pay £150 costs and a £15 surcharge.
Beecroft and Smith failed to attend the court in Derby or submit pleas to the charge.
Mr Raf Ali, for the council, said police received a report that casing was being burned off copper cabling and officers began a search at 10.25am. When the police helicopter arrived overhead, two men ran off and the third was stopped. The trio were later traced.
“The smoke generated from the burning of the cable is highly toxic and polluting. It is a criminal act and causes harm to the environment,” Mr Ali added.
Sarah Rust, for Bardill, said there was ‘no insinuation’ that he had taken the copper illegally.
“He had been collecting small scrap and was burning this to get to the metal, hoping to get paid money from a scrapyard for it,” she said.
“He didn’t realise what he was doing was against the law or he would not have done it. He regrets his ignorance but that is no defence to it.”
Miss Rust said the canal towpath was a common spot for burning off the insulation.
Presiding magistrate Chris Walker told Bardill: “It was done for your financial gain.”