Thames Water faces paying its record fine after polluting the River Thames with more than a billion litres of raw sewage.
Speaking at a sentencing hearing at Aylesbury Crown Court, Judge Francis Sheridan said that the discharges totalling 1.4 billion litres in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire in 2013 and 2014 had destroyed local angling and fishing businesses and left farmers with sick animals.
Judge Sheridan said: “I have to make the fine sufficiently large that they (Thames) get the message. The anglers are put out of business, the fishermen are put out of business, the farmers’ cattle are poisoned by the water.
“That is why the fine has to be sufficiently large to bring home to Thames Water: ‘start to comply’.”
Thames Water’s chief executive Steve Robertson, who was hired in 2016 well after the crimes took place, was in court for Friday’s hearing.
Speaking outside court, Mr Robertson said the company was “extremely sorry”.
He added: “This type of situation is one that we are determined will never happen again. We have spent many, many millions of pounds of shareholders’ money on making reparations.”
The record fine for any water company is £2 million, paid by Southern Water for an incident in Margate, Kent, in 2012.