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Environmental Law

Environmental Law (9th edn)

Stuart Bell, Donald McGillivray, Ole Pedersen, Emma Lees, and Elen Stokes
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date: 19 June 2024

p. 2658. Environmental crime and enforcementlocked

p. 2658. Environmental crime and enforcementlocked

  • Stuart Bell, Stuart BellProfessor of Law and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of York
  • Donald McGillivray, Donald McGillivrayProfessor of Environmental Law, University of Sussex
  • Ole W. Pedersen, Ole W. PedersenReader in Environmental Law, Newcastle University
  • Emma LeesEmma LeesUniversity Lecturer in Environmental and Property Law, University of Cambridge
  •  and Elen StokesElen StokesProfessorial Research Fellow in Law, University of Birmingham


This chapter is concerned with environmental crime and the enforcement of environmental law. It starts with some consideration of the difficult definition of ‘environmental crime’, including the distinction between moral and legal meanings of the term. Some of the basic framework of environmental crime, which helps to explain several of the approaches to the enforcement of environmental regulation, is then considered. For example, the fact that many environmental crimes are strict liability offences explains why the rate of successful prosecutions is high, but may also provide an explanation as to why some consider the sanctions that are imposed by the courts to be too low. A large part of the chapter is dedicated to a discussion of the enforcement practices adopted by regulatory agencies in England and Wales, including discussion of the use of civil sanctions instead of prosecutions and the recently enacted sentencing guidelines for environmental offences.

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Note: An update has been made available on the Online Resource Centre (June 2017).

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