Thames prosecutes repeat offender over illegal water connections

Thames Water has continued its crackdown on illegal water connections by bringing a repeat offender to court for offences stretching over five years.

Go Plant was fined £52,000 for continually connecting unauthorised and unlicensed standpipes to Thames’ network in London and Thames Valley.

The fleet services firm, which was acquired by Sweeptech this month, was charged with 40 offences of illegal water connections since 2019.

Go Plant was prosecuted at Swindon Magistrates court on 12 April, and Reading Magistrates court on 3 May, with accumulated fines and costs totaling £52,000. Its first prosecution was in February 2019.

The water company had met with Go Plant to encourage compliance with the rules, however the firm continued to connect to the water supply without authorisation, so prosecutions were pursued.

Efforts to find and stop these connections have uncovered “hundreds of offences and saved millions of litres in water”, Claire Rumens, Thames’ illegal connections manager, explained.

“As we ask our customers to use water wisely and have engineers working around the clock to find and fix leaks, we are also doing our part to stop illegal connections to our water supply. We will always look to work with individuals and companies to educate and reduce the risk of re-offending.”

Rumens previously told Utility Week that fines should be increased to a level that is more of a deterrent.

The maximum fine courts can hand out is currently capped at £1,000 per offence, and can be reduced by one-third for an early guilty plea.

She added: “We have to look after our network. With population increases and the changing climate, every drop of water is precious so we have to look after it.

“Looking after it includes making sure people aren’t taking water without permission; and if it is taken we want to make sure it’s compliant with the water regulations.”

Any unaccounted for water is categorised as leakage, which impacts water companies’ targets to reduce the amount of water lost to leaks.

As well as the loss of water, unlicenced connections can compromise the quality of the supply because standpipes do not always have a non-return valve, which can be a contamination risk from backflow to the clean supply.

Thames has uncovered 870 illegal standpipe connections, administered 96 prosecutions since 2017 and issued more than 500 retrospective charges since 2017 for first offences. Earlier this year, Bellway Homes was fined for illegally connecting to supplies at two property developments.