Breaches of German green laws still growing

1998 statistics show fewer offenders prosecuted; over two-thirds of crimes committed with intent

Breaches of environmental laws in Germany in 1998 increased by 4% compared with the previous year with a smaller percentage than ever before being resolved, according to the latest statistics released by the country's environment agency today.

The study was compiled using data from federal and state criminal investigation and statistical offices. In total there were 47,900 offences, compared with 46,100 in 1997 (ENDS Daily 19 August 1999). Some 57% were resolved, compared with 58% in the previous year and 70% in 1992. Three-quarters of cases were related to unauthorised handling of hazardous waste, about 15% were concerned with water pollution. The next largest category was soil contamination at around 10%.

The largest number of environmental offences per capita were recorded in Schleswig Holstein, Saxony Anhalt, Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Those with the lowest were Bavaria, Baden Württemberg, Saxony and Bremen. However, the statistics only illustrate the rate of detection, not criminal or negligent activity. Saxony-Anhalt brought the highest proportion of offenders to justice with nearly 80%, followed by Bavaria and Thuringia with 75% and 71% respectively. The federal state of Berlin had the worst record with only 16% followed by Bremen and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern with 47% and 50% respectively.

The statistics do not distinguish clearly between crime and accidental breaches of law. However, an agency official told ENDS Daily that at least two-thirds of the recorded offences were committed with intent and the rest resulted from negligence. An exact distinction cannot always be made for technical legal reasons such as negligence not always being punishable, some offences coming under either category and the various types of law that can be broken.

Follow Up:
German environment agency, tel: +49 30 89030, and press release. The full study is available on request.

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