The European Council has opened a period of negotiations with the European Parliament on the Environmental Crime Directive with the aim of achieving a legal instrument designed to protect the environment more robustly.
The proposal aims to improve the investigation and prosecution of environmental crimes with a better definition of environmental crimes and with the addition of new typologies. It also harmonises the levels of penalties for individuals and, for the first time, also for legal entities.
Instead of the nine offences currently included in European criminal law, 20 offences are defined in the negotiations, expanding and detailing the scope of prohibited conduct to harm the environment. New crimes include timber trafficking, the main cause of deforestation in some parts of the world, illegal recycling of polluting ship components and serious breaches of chemicals legislation.
With respect to individuals who commit any of the acts covered by this proposal, the following penalties are established:
- For crimes committed intentionally and causing the death of a person, a minimum prison sentence of ten years.
- For crimes committed, at least, by gross negligence that cause the death of a person, penalty of at least five years.
- For all other intentional crimes included in the legislation, a minimum sentence of three years’ imprisonment.
In the case of legal entities, the text establishes the following penalties:
- For the most serious offences, a maximum fine of at least 5% of the total turnover at the level of the legal entity, or EUR 40 million.
- For all other offences, a maximum fine starting at 3% of the total worldwide turnover of the legal entity, or EUR 24 million.
Other additional measures may also be adopted, such as the obligation for the offender to restore the environment or compensate for damages, their exclusion from access to public funding or the withdrawal of permits or authorisations.
In addition, the text incorporates the need to provide training for those working to detect, investigate and prosecute environmental crime and to provide these services with sufficient resources.
It also contains provisions on aid and assistance to persons who report environmental crimes, to environmental defenders and to persons affected by this type of crime.
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