At Aylesbury Crown Court this morning, Thames Water were handed down a record-breaking fine of £20m for pollution of the River Thames.
The judge's comments were scathing:-
"The evidence indicates that knowledge of what was going on went very high indeed. It must have done."
Thames Water is facing a record fine "because this was record offending." The fine must be proportionate.
"I don't accept that the lower tier managers and workers are the only ones to blame. That flies in face of evidence."
there's a pattern of effluent release incidents not being reported to the EA by Thames Water but by the public instead
At one unmanned sewage plant a valve was left open allowing effluent to escape unchecked until it was noticed and reported by the public.
All the problems should be seen as part of a systematic failure of management by Thames Water not isolated incidents.
The company knew it had problems with the plants in 2013, ignored them and they continued throughout 2014.
The fish stocks in the affected part of the River Thames were so badly hit they'll take another 9 years to recover.
The various treatment works were in a dilapidated state. Thousands of alarms were ignored.
He's convinced that higher tiers of Thames Water management were involved in a coverup of the sewage plant problems.
There was an aggressive system of management in place. TW employees were banned from talking to the EA.
Thames Water repeatedly misled the Environment Agency as to the nature of the discharges, claiming they were harmless.
Thames Water has a history of non-compliance with warnings from its regulator.
The discharges killed fish and affected the human life on the Thames. There were huge numbers of complaints about raw sewage and the stench.
7 supertankers worth of effluent were released into the river. Offending on a huge scale and a record fine is appropriate.
"All the problems were foreseeable and preventable by any competent manager", said the judge, who used the word "diabolical" 3 times.
Some of the sewage discharges were on the line between between recklessness and deliberate.
The judge said that he would give the company credit for its guilty pleas but called its conduct "disgraceful."
I'll add more here as we get it, in the meantime here is the BBC news report:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-39352755