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Thames Water fined record £20.3 million after pumping one billion tonnes of sewage into river

Thames Water must pay a record £20.3 million fine Credit: PA

Thames Water has been hit with a £20 million fine - the biggest ever by far for a water utility - after causing an environmental disaster.

Both people and animals were left ill, while thousands of fish were killed, when the company polluted the River Thames with 1.4 billion litres of raw sewage.

Areas in Oxford and Buckinghamshire were both affected by the leaks in 2013 and 2014.

Following a hearing at Aylesbury Crown Court on Wednesday, Thames Water were hit with the record-breaking fine.

The water supply company must now cough up a total of £20.3 million.

Thousands of fish were killed by the leak Credit: PA

The penalty was 10 times higher than the previous record-high fine, handed out to Southern Water.

Addressing Thames Water, Judge Sheridan said: "This is a shocking and disgraceful state of affairs."

He added: "It should not be cheaper to offend than to take appropriate precautions."

Thames Water, which admitted 13 breaches of environmental laws over discharges from sewage treatment works in Aylesbury, Didcot, Henley and Little Marlow, has 21 days to pay up.

The judge also took into account seven further incidents at sewage sites on the Thames in 2014.

Thames's previous record fine for pollution was £1 million, paid in January 2016.

Thames Water admitted breaching environmental laws Credit: PA

Richard Aylard, Thames Water, said outside the court: "We have failed in our responsibility to the environment and that hurts both personally and professionally because we do care.

"We've also failed in our responsibility to our customers, who pay us to provide an essential public service all the time, every day and not just some of the time, and we apologise for all of those failings."

But Mr Aylard added that in the three years since the incident Thames Water had "learnt its lesson".

Thames Water chief executive Steve Robertson outside court Credit: PA