SFO & Severn Trent Water

This case offered an interesting example of media scrutiny of individuals who have no opportunity to defend themselves in court.

In 2008, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was prosecuting STW for ‘knowingly and/or recklessly providing false information’ on water leakage to its regulator, OFWAT, in 2001 and 2002.

Severn Trent pleaded guilty to two offences under the Water Industry Act. In court and in media statements, the company repeatedly criticised the ‘previous regime’.

The company’s decision to plead guilty was made in the knowledge that former Directors had resolutely denied any suggestion of personal wrongdoing. It is the uncomfortable circumstance of corporate prosecutions that allows companies to blame individuals without affording the opportunity to those identified individuals to defend themselves since they are not personally parties to the prosecution.

Bell Yard aided Mr Duckworth to respond to Severn Trent’s statements and ensure that he received an opportunity to give an account of himself and his conduct through the media, given he was denied that chance in the ordinary course of the legal proceedings.

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