By Richard B Macrory, on 4 December 2013
Environmental prosecutors from all over Europe attended the Hague on 27 and 28 November 2013 at a conference hosted by EUROJUST and the newly formed European Network of Prosecutors for the Environment (ENPE). The meeting brought together for the first time prosecutors specialising in environmental crime from Eurojust and the ENPE as well as representatives from the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL), Interpol and Europol.
In most European countries, bodies responsible for the prosecution of environmental crime are distinct from the regulatory agencies who have responsibility for licences and inspection and the imposition of administrative penalties - the Environment Agency and Natural England in England and Wales are unusual is that they combines both functions. Professor Richard Macrory, co-director of the Centre for Law and the Environment, gave the key-note speech at the conference and outlined his vision for a more coordinated and integrated system, spanning criminal and administrative responses.
“We now need to think how we can more effectively coordinate criminal and administrative sanctions. There should be a number of principles that should underline any system of sanctions. A core principle is that a sanction should be designed to change the behaviour of the offender – sometimes this needs a criminal punishment, sometimes not. Second, an effective sanctioning system will ensure no financial gains are made by non-compliance. Sometimes this can be achieved by a criminal fine. But again there may be other more imaginative ways of ensuring this. An effective sanctioning system has to be very responsive to a broad range of offenders, and the bodies responsible for enforcement, whether criminal or administrative, need to create and publish an integrated enforcement policy. Such a policy will indicate the range of sanctions available and the circumstances when they are most likely to be applied – this gives important signals to the businesses concerned, and increased public confidence in the overall system.”
Mr Leif Görts, National Member for Sweden and chair of the meeting, commented: “This meeting was broad and ambitious and the first of its kind…… We all agree on the threats, and we also agree on the obvious need to share experience and knowledge; this is exactly why Eurojust bringing together senior environmental prosecutors is so important and highly relevant.”