Southern Water is the latest company to receive a heavy fine for
environmental offences, following a pollution incident in Kent in
June 2012 where large amounts of sewage were expelled onto the
Thanet coastline after pumping station failures. The court heavily
criticised Southern Water for complacency, particularly given its
history of 160 convictions for pollution offences. The judge
imposed a record fine of £2 million on Southern Water for
causing a water discharge activity other than authorised by their
environmental permit, saying "the message must go out to
directors and shareholders that repeated offending of this nature
is wholly unacceptable".
Quick action is more important than ever when dealing with a
pollution incident and the requirement to maintain good systems.
The most common aggravating factors when sentencing are offending
over an extended period of time, and a history of
Since the introduction of the new sentencing guidelines,
multi-million pound fines have become more frequent. The average
fine for environmental offences has nearly doubled from
£39,200 to £70,600. In January 2016, Thames Water
received a £1 million fine for a sewage pollution offence. At
the time, that was the highest fine given in an EA prosecution. The
record has now been broken twice, and the highest fine ever awarded
has doubled – all in the space of a year. This shows that the
courts have got to grips with the sentencing guidelines, they are
comfortable in applying them and that much higher fines are the
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On 15 February 2017, the European Commission sent final warnings (a Reasoned Opinion) to France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom for failing to comply with the air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide.
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