TOUGHER court punishments have meant a farming couple who killed over 15,200 fish with fertilizer were ordered to pay more than £62,000.

Mark and Anne Bennion of Rosehill Farm, Dymock, pleaded guilty at Hereford Magistrates Court for polluting Preston Brook and the River Leadon.

The Bennions were each fined £5,500 and each ordered to pay £25,798.55 in costs along with a victim surcharge of £170 each.

Hundreds of tonnes of digestate were discharged into the river killing prime brown trout, chub, eels, dace, roach, lamprey, and bream.

The discharge – meant for an orchard and main picture – was the worst in ten years in the area.

In passing sentence, the Magistrates sought to achieve a balance between the major adverse impact on the watercourse and the powerful mitigation put forward on the defendants’ behalf.

The Bennions were both previously of good character, with no previous convictions, and were co-operated with the Environment Agency immediately after the incident. Their remorse was evident throughout the investigation and court hearing.

Since then the EA have restocked with more than 15,000 fish and more will follow over the next four years.

An EA spokesperson said: “Agriculture uses 70 per cent of the land in England and farmers have a major impact on the environment. Most farmers act responsibly and we work with the industry to respond to incidents, tackle the root causes of pollution and promote good practice.

“But where farmers are responsible for serious pollution incidents, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action, including prosecution. Agriculture is the single biggest source of serious pollution incidents and all farmers have a duty to prevent it.

“We are pleased that the court has accepted the seriousness of the case and imposed appropriate penalties.

Elsewhere, a West Yorkshire house building company has been fined £120,000 for illegally polluting a watercourse from a Huddersfield construction site.

Harron Homes Limited was sentenced yesterday at Leeds Magistrates’ Court after admitting one charge of causing illegal discharges from its Farriers Croft estate in 2015 into a tributary of Grimescar Dyke.

Despite no fish dying, the Leeds firm was given the tough fine plus ordered to pay £8,706 in legal costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

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