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Thames Water has been fined a record £20m after pumping nearly 1.5 billion litres of untreated sewage into the River Thames.
The company admitted water pollution and other offences at sewage facilities in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.
Fish and birds died following the spills in 2013 and 2014.
The £20.3m fine is the largest penalty handed down to a water utility for an environmental disaster.
Judge Francis Sheridan said the scale of the problem was such that it must have been known up the chain of command.
He told Aylesbury Crown Court it was inconceivable that all the individual managers made the same decisions to run pumps at half levels, calling it a "shocking and disgraceful state of affairs".
He added: "It should not be cheaper to offend than to take appropriate precautions."