The UK Government spent more than £50,000 investigating BP after an oil leak – an amount seven times greater than the fine dished out to the company.
Environmental groups said the disparity between the figures was part of a “wider problem” and called for a specialist “environmental court” to be established to replace the mandate previously held by the European Court of Justice.
About 95 tonnes of crude oil leaked into the sea in 2016 from BP’s Clair platform, around 75 miles off the west coast of Shetland, where it had planned to start production from a newly drilled well.
BP pleaded guilty last month to contravening rules on the regulation of offshore petroleum activities at Aberdeen Sheriff Court and was ordered to pay £7,000.
The penalty sparked an outpouring of anger online, with many feeling the sum did not match the severity of the incident and would do nothing to deter future rule breaking.
Figures obtained under Freedom of Information show the UK department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) forked out £50,409.30 investigating the incident.
Guy Ingerson, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Greens convener, said: “We really need to look at environmental crimes more widely. The issues caused by oil companies are far reaching.
“People will have seen the news about the Mauritius oil spill in a really sensitive area and then we see figures like these.
“A £7,000 fine is frankly outrageous considering the huge profits BP is making. Then you find out the costs of actually taking them to court is far more than the punishment.
“BP probably spend more than £7,000 on stationery for its offices – that just puts it into perspective.
“It really does highlight that the way governments of all shades have been treating environmental crime isn’t working and we really need reform.”
Gregor McAbery, Friends of the Earth Aberdeen co-ordinator said: “Obviously, the oils companies should be ensuring that they comply with safety regimes on a daily basis.
“When they do breach those rules, the fines need to be in scale with the profits they make.”
A BEIS spokesperson said: “The Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED)’s duty as a regulator is to pursue such claims.
“BP pled guilty over the Clair spill and was subsequently fined. OPRED pursued this charge in accordance with its regulatory duties.”