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Environmental LawText, Cases & Materials

Environmental Law: Text, Cases & Materials (2nd edn)

Elizabeth Fisher, Bettina Lange, and Eloise Scotford
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date: 19 June 2024

p. 1285. Criminal Liabilitylocked

p. 1285. Criminal Liabilitylocked

  • Elizabeth Fisher, Elizabeth FisherProfessor of Environmental Law, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford
  • Bettina LangeBettina LangeAssociate Professor of Law and Regulation, University of Oxford
  •  and Eloise ScotfordEloise ScotfordProfessor of Environmental Law, UCL


This chapter introduces criminal liability for non-compliance with English environmental law. Environmental crime can be defined as behaviour that contravenes statutory provisions for the protection of the ecological and physical environment, where there is some kind of punitive sanction imposed for the contravention, with such provisions sometimes also pursuing the protection of public health. Environmental crime can also include criminal offences created through the common law, such as public nuisance. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss overarching themes, such as key elements of strict liability offences, in criminalizing behaviour that damages the environment, rather than details of specific offences spelt out in particular statutes. The argument here is that environmental crime sits uneasily within the environmental law regulatory landscape, which has been shaped in the UK in recent years by co-operative, ‘better regulation’ agendas that seek to reduce burdens on business.

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