Non-Compliance Does Not Pay

Back in October 2015, the introduction of sentencing guidelines for environmental penalties meant that it was only a matter of time before companies were found guilty of breaching the law and that these companies would be hit hard.

A water utilities company was fined £1 million following a guilty plea to two pollution offences.  The damage was caused when the polluting matter was discharged from a sewage treatment works into the Grand Union Canal.

The judge stated that the time had come for sentences for environmental offences to be “sufficiently severe to have a significant impact on the organisation’s finances”.

Although the fine of £1 million can hardly be described as ‘light’ the penalty was less than it could have been.  By pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity and co-operating in the investigation, the company in question managed to keep the fine as low as possible.

Small businesses will not be hit with £1 million fines but penalties will be large enough to have an impact.  The Court of Appeal has stated that fines for the most serious offences could be equivalent to “100% of a company’s pre-tax net profits”.  In other words, the courts want businesses to take managing environmental issues such as pollution prevention extremely seriously.

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