A Church of Scientology has been slapped with a £14,000 fine for polluting a river with raw sewage, and poisoning marine wildlife.

The Church of Scientology Religious Education College, a division of the church which is based at Saint Hill Manor at East Grinstead, pleaded guilty to breaching environmental regulations at Worthing Magistrates' Court on Friday.

It was also ordered to pay £2,566 in costs at court.

Residents complained of pollution in a tributary to the River Medway. The stream bed was covered with slimy grey fungus and dead invertebrates after the college replaced its sewage treatment plant in August 2015.

The Environment Agency (EA) carried out an inspection a month later and confirmed the new plant was working. However, residents filed in more complaints in October about pollution.

The court heard inspectors took samples from the river and found sewage waste ten times over the permitted limit.

It took samples on 19 occasions and ten of which failed the quality tests.

Dave Willis, area environment manager of the EA, told The Daily Mail: "We are pleased that the court decided to impose significant financial penalty on the organisation on Friday.

"The incident had a serious and avoidable impact on a local watercourse, caused by failing to ensure that the new treatment plant operated correctly.

"We take these types of incidents very seriously and will do everything within our powers to safe-guard the environment and people affected, and that includes bringing those who harm the environment to account for their actions."

The court heard there was no long-term damage to the river.

A spokesman for the Church of Scientology said: "The Church of Scientology takes this matter very seriously.

"As the Environment Agency pointed out, since the incident in 2015, we have installed new infrastructure to get the sewage treatment plant operating as it should.

"We will continue to monitor our needs and expand our facilities as needed to accommodate expansion in the years to come. We have a high regard for safeguarding and improving the environment."