Angling Trust

Guilty! Angling Trust welcomes record fine for polluters Southern Water.

Today (9th July 2021) His Honour Mr Justice Johnson handed down a £90m fine to Southern Water, after the company admitted to 6,971 illegal spills from 17 sites in Hampshire, Kent and West Sussex between 2010 and 2015.  Southern Water had tried to claim these events were due to negligence on their part, but the Judge dismissed this, saying the offences had been “committed deliberately” with the full knowledge of the Southern Water board at the time. He went on to say, “These offences show a shocking and wholesale disregard for the environment, for precious and delicate ecosystems and coastlines, for human health, and for fisheries and other legitimate businesses that operate in the coastal waters,”. 

Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, said, “£90m sound a lot, but when you look at the deliberate acts of this company, and its determination to put its own profits and dividend above the interests of the environment, it could and should have been a lot higher. Over the period in question, Southern Water poured between 16bn and 21bn litres of raw sewage into some of our most precious and delicate environments. Will this fine make the mend their ways? I’m not convinced. Too often, it is too easy for water companies to still be able to pour raw sewage into our rivers and coastal waters. The biggest crime of all, is they can often do so perfectly legally.”  

This court case showed that Southern Water had history of criminal activity. In his ruling the judge describe Southern Water as “previous and persistent pollution of the environment”. It had 168 previous offences and cautions; all ignored. Southern Water had simply not altered its behaviour, with Justice Johnson commenting, “There is no evidence the company took any notice of the penalties imposed or the remarks of the courts. Its offending simply continued,”. 

This ruling is not only an indictment of the criminal behaviour of Southern Water; it also represents a total failure of the system of monitoring an enforcement. 

Singleton-White went on to say, “While it is good the Environment Agency brought this prosecution, it begs the question of why Southern Water were able to get away with it for so long?  Not only is this further evidence of the impacts of the cuts in funding to the EA’s ability to properly monitor and take action against polluters, it also shows just how broken the monitoring system is. The over reliance on water companies to self-monitor and self-report has been shown to be open to abuse. It needs to stop. We need a regulator capable and willing to regulate.” 

The Angling Trust and Fish Legal have been calling for a major reform of the monitoring regime for some time, most recently in the evidence we gave to the Environmental Audit Committee’s ongoing inquiry into water quality. Through Anglers Against Pollution, we have been calling for action, for more funding, and for change in the way the Environment Agency operate. 

Anglers can support our work through this campaign and by joining the Angling Trust. 

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