Roundtable discussion on environmental crime and green criminology

15 March 2017, 14.00-17.00. Collins Suite (CL 205) 


Environmental crimes are gaining salience as policy instruments across different levels of governance for the protection of natural resources and the environment. Policy-makers, social movements and academia increasingly converge in regarding criminal law and justice as a legitimate means of social control for environmental governance. Environmental crimes thus aim at complementing and reinforcing environmental rules, standards and policies by fostering behavioural change and managing the impact of human activities on the environment. While typifying a strong regulatory strategy that provides environmental law a hard enforcement edge, the increasing significance of criminal approaches across all levels of environmental governance raises complex issues of theory and practice. What role should criminal law and justice have within the broader regulatory policy for environmental protection? What environmental harmful conducts should be criminalised? What kind of criminal penalties should be applied? How to strike a legitimate balance between deterrence and commensurability with environmental harms? How to address transnational dynamics of environmental harmful activities?

In the best tradition of academia, scholars have appraised this phenomenon from different disciplinary angles, such as law, criminology, political economy or international relations – and mostly in isolation from one another. Recently, however, there is a growing consensus for pursuing more integrated, interdisciplinary approaches to research in environmental crime and green criminology in order to grasp more fully its inherent complexity. This Roundtable on Environmental Crime and Green Criminology therefore gathers lawyers and criminologists from the University of Lancaster, the University of Sussex and the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance (SCELG) to discuss the role of criminal law and justice across different levels of environmental governance. To this end, the roundtable will start by assessing how criminal courts in Scotland have applied available penalties in convictions for wildlife crimes. Secondly, it will discuss the emergence of (transnational) environmental crime as a concerted implementation strategy of multilateral environmental agreements that deal with ozone depleting substances, international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, or transboundary movements of hazardous wastes. Against this background, discussants will explore avenues for future interdisciplinary research from socio-legal and criminological perspectives.


Chair: Prof. Elisa Morgera (Co-director of SCELG)

Discussants: Prof. Mark Poustie (SCELG), Dr. Antonio Cardesa-Salzmann, Dr. Gary Potter (University of Lancaster), Dr. Emanuela Orlando (University of Sussex).

Deterrence and commensurability: penalties for wildlife crimes in Scotland (Powerpoint Presentation Prof. Mark Poustie ) 
Prof. Mark Poustie (SCELG)

This presentation builds upon research carried out for the Scottish Government to consider what penalties are available for wildlife crimes in Scotland and what penalties the Scottish criminal courts actually apply. The context of the research was a Government-commissioned review driven by the perception that the penalties available and those actually imposed were not a sufficient deterrent to ongoing wildlife crimes which were considered to be blighting Scotland’s reputation.   The report identified a fragmented framework of relatively low available penalties with much lower penalties being imposed in practice by the courts. The report contrasted this situation with an increasingly coherent and high level of available penalties in pollution control law, where there was also evidence of a statistically significant increase in penalties being imposed by the courts. This coupled with evidence of improving environmental quality appeared to provide some qualified evidence of the deterrent effect of appropriate criminal sanctions. The Government accepted the report’s recommendations that the penalties for wildlife crime be harmonised and increased to similar levels as those available for pollution control offences along with a variety of other recommendations including harmonising alternative penalties, introducing impact statements and sentencing guidelines.

Multilateral environmental agreements and the emergence of transnational environmental crime 
Dr. Antonio Cardesa-Salzmann (SCELG)

This presentation appraises the distinctive ways in which a sample of key MEAs are addressing issues of illegality and criminality in order to counter illicit transboundary traffic in environmentally sensitive goods. It evaluates how these issues have acquired salience on the global criminal justice agenda. Three main findings are made in this regard. First, MEAs that face significant compliance challenges through emerging black markets in controlled goods have adopted a strategy of coordination and cooperation to increase their respective effectiveness. Second, inter-MEA coordination has furthered the significance of global and regional enforcement networks of practitioners as de facto norm-setting agents that have deeply influenced the regulatory development and implementation of MEAs. Third, this inter- and transnational process of cooperation has brought about a gradual criminalization of illegal trade in environmentally-sensitive commodities. The highlighted evolution clearly hints at an increasing awareness of transnational crime for environmental regime effectiveness. 

Greening Criminology: Combining criminological and ecological sciences in informing and enforcing environmental law (Powerpoint Presentation Dr. Gary Potter ) 
Dr. Gary Potter (University of Lancaster)

There are many areas where criminology can provide knowledge and expertise of relevance to socio-legal responses to environmental harm. Environmental victimology provides insights into the nature and extent of suffering experienced by individuals and groups, not just from instances of environmental harm but also from engaging (or failing to engage) with legal and political systems when seeking redress. Crime prevention theory can be taken from its original context of 'street' crime and applied to environmental crimes. Policing and punishment studies have much to tell us about how best to enforce environmental laws deal with those found guilty of environmental crimes.

Towards a ‘Socio-Legal’ research and policy agenda on Environmental Crimes: exploring potential synergies between Law and Criminology ( )Powerpoint Presentation Dr. Emanuela Orlando ) 
Dr. Emanuela Orlando (University of Sussex)

The term ‘environmental crimes’ is commonly used to refer to a potentially broad spectrum of activities, ranging from individual or corporate violations of environmental legislation to more complex instances of organized criminality, such as those operating in the field of illegal waste dumping, illegal trade in wildlife and illegal logging. The harms produced by such crimes are vast; for example, the UN Environment Programme and INTERPOL estimate that the illegal logging trade alone is worth some $30-100 billion each year.  Therefore, the question how to design appropriate strategies to prevent and respond to these offences needs further attention from both policy makers and researchers. The inherent interdisciplinary nature of environmental issues, and the complexities of many environmental crimes, also mean that a comprehensive understanding of this problem requires the convergence of different types of expertise. In this light, this presentation will bring together perspectives from both law and green criminology in order to examine the main differences, identify convergences and explore potential synergies between the two disciplinary approaches to the question of environmental crimes. Ultimately, the analysis will seek to explore the potential for a comprehensive and integrated cross-disciplinary ‘socio-legal’ approach to environmental crimes, which draws upon the strengths of both the legal and criminological framework to improve knowledge and develop appropriate responses to these important environmental challenges.