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Environment Agency v Empress Car Co [1999]

Facts

  • The defendants left an unguarded tap on a large diesel tank next to a river
  • An unknown vandal trespassed on the property of the defendants and opened the tap, allowing the diesel to discharge into the river
  • It is a strict liability offence to cause the discharge of diesel into a river, under the Water Resources Act 1991, section 85

Issue

  • Did the defendants cause the discharge?

Decision

  • Yes

Reasoning

  • Having created the situation which allowed the discharge, the defendants would only escape liability if the intervening act was extraordinary
  • It was not extraordinary, given the local opposition to the defendants, that the tap might be opened by a vandal
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