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£1 million fine for Thames Water Utilities Ltd

On 4 January 2016 St Albans Crown Court ordered Thames to pay a £1m fine in respect of two offences under the Environmental Permitting Regulations…

On 4 January 2016 St Albans Crown Court ordered Thames to pay a £1m fine in respect of two offences under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010. The offences related to discharges in 2012 and 2013 into the Grand Union Canal from a sewage treatment works.

If we assume that the £1m fine was made up of £500,000.00 in respect of each of the two offences and that a one third reduction for an early guilty plea was applied to both amounts, then the original fines per offence prior to the reduction would have been £665,000 - £1.33m for both offences.

£665,000 is at the lower end of the scale for an organisation such as Thames. That is because Thames would be considered a Very Large Organisation thereby giving the courts the freedom to move outside the framework provided for in the Guideline and move beyond the £3m upper limit for each offence.

We suspect this reflects some of the sentencing comments which suggest there was limited environmental damage, that Thames fully cooperated with the EA and that they have subsequently invested in preventative measures to prevent a recurrence.

The first £1m fine is in line with the comments of the Court of Appeal in the 2015 Thames Water case in which the court suggested fines for VLOs could be £100m+. Now the £1m glass ceiling has been broken we expect to see more £m fines for VLOs and resulting increases in fines for small, medium and large companies as well (the brackets below VLO).