Major House of Lords ruling on water pollution offences

An important ruling concerning the meaning of the key water pollution offences under the Water Resources Act 1991 has been given by the House of Lords. The lead judgement of Lord Hoffman in Empress Car Company (Abertillery) Ltd v National Rivers Authority (House of Lords, 5 February 1998) provides a fresh analysis of what is meant by "causing" water pollution, and implies that causation can apply even where the polluter takes no active steps. The decision will require industry and sewerage undertakers to pay extra attention to maintaining pollution control equipment and other preventative measures if they are to avoid criminal prosecution.

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