Environmental Audit Committee

12 December 2003



Environmental crime covers a wide range of issues, such as waste, pollution, anti-social behaviour, and wildlife offences.  Environmental crimes affect significant numbers of people, while the range of laws governing such crimes crosses the public/private law divide. There is concern that too many environmental crimes go unprosecuted or insufficiently punished. 

The Environmental Audit Committee has appointed a Sub-committee which will examine how the Government and judiciary are helping to secure access to environmental justice in England and Wales. The Sub-committee intends to hold a series of inquiries, the first of which will look into environmental crime and the courts, in particular the appropriateness of environmental sentencing.

We are particularly seeking views on the following questions:

(1)  Are the scale and nature of sentences for environmental crimes commensurate with the seriousness of the crimes themselves?

(2)  Are sentences appropriately set to act as a deterrent?

(3)  Is environmental sentencing sufficiently flexible to ensure that offenders, whatever their means, are punished appropriately?

(4)  Is the guidance currently available to magistrates’ and other courts appropriate and sufficient to ensure that sentences for environmental crimes are set at a level which properly reflects the damage caused by the crimes and the need to deter future crimes?

(5)  Are magistrates’ and other courts following any guidance available?

(6)  To what extent are courts sentencing on the basis of broad environmental principles, including the principle of sustainable development?

The Committee would be grateful to receive memoranda from interested individuals and organisations relating to these issues.  Written evidence should be sent to the Clerk of the Sub-committee, Mr Mike Hennessy, by Wednesday 14th January 2004 by e-mail to eacom@parliament.uk. (with a hard copy by post).   A brief guidance note on the preparation and submission of evidence is available on the Committee’s web pages.

The Sub-committee plans initially, after this first inquiry, to hold inquiries into crimes related to anti-social behaviour, and wildlife crime.  Suggestions for further areas of environmental crime into which the Sub-committee could inquire would be gratefully received.

Notes for Editors

1.  The EAC’s sub-committee will be known as the Sub-Committee on Environmental Crime. Its membership is as follows:

Chairman:     Mr Peter Ainsworth, MP

Mr Colin Challen, MP

Mr Paul Flynn MP

Mrs Helen Clark, MP

Mr Simon Thomas MP

Sue Doughty, MP

2. Details of all the Committee's inquiries, together with its Reports and other publications, are available on the internet.