Criminal Law as Primary Instrument

In this traditional structure of environmental criminal law, the main (and for many countries the only) instrument that could be used to enforce administrative environmental law was criminal law. This was the case in the above examples from Belgium, France and the UK. In those countries, alternatives to criminal law (e.g. administrative fines) did not exist. Thus, during that period those legal systems did not follow the so-called enforcement pyramid developed by Ayres and Braithwaite 1992), according to which the criminal would only be used at the top of the pyramid after all other mechanisms (persuasion, administrative fines, etc.) had been exhausted.

In most legal systems at the time—including those of Belgium, France and the UK—the criminal law was the primary enforcement tool. However, the situation was more nuanced in Germany. Germany had the Ordnungswidrigkeitenrecht (administrative penal law), which is a non-criminal sanctioning system that allows for the imposition of administrative fines (Faure and Heine 2000, pp. 142-147). In addition, other legal systems inspired by the German model, such as Austria, had a similar system of administrative penal law, allowing the imposition of fines (Faure and Heine 2000, pp. 9-13).

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