Record £90m fine for Southern Water following EA prosecution

Southern Water has been handed a record £90m fine after pleading guilty to thousands of illegal discharges of sewage which polluted rivers and coastal waters in Kent, Hampshire and Sussex.

The sentence follows 51 guilty pleas to widespread and long term breaches of environmental law by Southern Water between 2010 and 2015. The offences were found to be caused by deliberate failings, causing major harm (Category 1) to protected areas, conservation sites and oyster beds.

The case, which is the largest criminal investigation in the Environment Agency’s 25-year history, saw pollution offences from 16 waste water treatment works and one storm overflow brought together in one prosecution at Canterbury Crown Court.

In giving his sentence, the Justice Johnson said: “Each of the 51 offences seen in isolation shows a shocking and wholesale disregard for the environment, for the precious and delicate ecosytems along the North Kent and Solent coastlines, for human health, and for the fisheries and other legitimate businesses that depend on the vitality of the coastal waters. Each offence does not stand in isolation. It is necessary to sentence the company for the totality of the offences to which it has pleaded guilty. But even that does not reflect the defendant’s criminality. That is because the offences are aggravated by its previous persistent pollution of the environment over very many years.”

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