Fish Legal taking Southern Water to the Criminal Courts

28th September 2023

Fish Legal was granted the right to proceed with its private prosecution against Southern Water for polluting the River Test at a hearing that took place at West Hampshire Magistrates Court on 28 September.  The charges being brought against the water company relate to pollution entering the Test from an outfall operated by Southern Water at Nursling Industrial Estate near Southampton.

The next hearing in the prosecution case is listed for 27 February 2024.

The hearing took place on the same day that the 2023 State of Nature report was published, showing that wildlife across the UK is declining, with at least 7 freshwater fish species now at risk of extinction.

Penelope Gane, Head of Practice at Fish Legal, said: “We’re delighted that the Judge has given our private prosecution against Southern Water for polluting an iconic chalkstream the green light.  Despite protests from both the Environment Agency and Southern Water – who had King’s Counsel in court on the day – the Judge could see no reason why Fish Legal should not go ahead with bringing its own criminal case against the water company.”

She added: “With the release of the State of Nature report showing that freshwater species are becoming rarer, we are determined to inject some urgency into stopping pollution on the River Test and, in this case, protecting wild salmon. The Environment Agency told the court that it had started looking into Southern Water’s role in the pollution but it’s too little, too late as far as we’re concerned.”

George Graham, Chair of Fish Legal, said: “We’re taking this case on behalf of our angler members, but we’re doing it for everyone who loves the River Test and the species it supports.  It is a precious chalkstream that needs protecting from persistent pollution.  We will be ably prepared for the next hearing in February when we hope matters can finally progress.  We can’t wait.” 

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