Criminal or administrative law to protect the environment? Evidence from Western Europe

M.G. Faure*, K. Svatikova

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article studies the scope of criminal and administrative law enforcement of environmental violations in four Western European jurisdictions. The Flemish Region and the United Kingdom have, until mid-2009, largely relied only on criminal sanctioning while administrative sanctions, which have also been in use since mid-2009, have already been widely used in the Netherlands and Germany. This article considers whether, given a fixed budget for the relevant national environment agency, single (criminal) or multiple (criminal and administrative) enforcement instruments are adequate to induce compliance. The fact that administrative proceedings are less strict and more informal than criminal proceedings suggests that the imposition of administrative sanctions is a relatively cheaper alternative. Therefore, in case of environmental violations, it is cost-effective to complement criminal law enforcement by administrative law rather than to allow for a single (criminal) sanctioning instrument. Complementary use of these two instruments might lead to additional deterrence. Data is presented to illustrate this argument.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253–286
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Environmental Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • administrative fines
  • administrative sanctions
  • criminal sanctions
  • enforcement


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