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Convictions in France

The reinforcement of France's policy of repression against operational discharge.

Context

The main French texts on the repression of marine pollution due to oil discharge now appear in the French Code of the Environment (book II, title 1, section 1) and in the Prime Minister's directive on the surveillance and repression of pollution at sea by ships, floating machines and oil rigs dated 15 July 2002.

The law on the creation of an environmental protection zone off the French coast (Journal Officiel 16 April 2003) enables the French authorities to prosecute offenders for polluting discharges caused by ships in a large area in the Mediterranean. This law increases the field of competence of France’s specialised maritime courts to the EPZ and the EEZ.

The French courts involved in judging cases of illicit discharge are mainly Paris' high court and the French designated coastal courts (Le Havre, Brest and Marseille).  Their competences were revised by the Perben II law on criminality dated 10 March 2004.

Illicit discharge zone

Competent court

HIGH SEAS (for French captains)

Paris' high court (art L218-29 – II Environmental Code altered by the Perben II law on criminality dated 10 March 2004)

EEZ, EPZ, territorial waters,
inland waters and waterways
(for highly complex cases)

Paris' high court (art L218-29 – II Environmental Code altered by the Perben II law on criminality dated 10 March 2004)

EEZ, EPZ, territorial waters,
inland waters and waterways
(for offences mentioned in art L218-10 CE)

Specialised high court for maritime coast such as Brest, Le Havre and Marseille (art L218-29 – I CE)

 

Convictions

In France, convictions resulting from court cases for illegal discharge of oil in territorial waters and special areas are cases of criminal law. Smaller scale offences mainly affecting the public maritime domain result in administrative penalties. The following table outlines the characteristics of these levels of sanctions.

ADMINISTRATIVE penalties

CRIMINAL penalties

Aim

To dissuade offenders in order to prevent further offences

Conviction, punishment for a criminal offence

Why

To ensure compliance with legislation

Breaking State rules

Who

The offender or principal of the crime

The offender (physical or legal person)

Principle

Limited liability

Responsibility depends on the severity of the damage caused

Type of penalties

Confiscation,
monetary penalty established according to a scale imposed by the law (depends on the severity of the offence, the behaviour of the offender and his legal track record)

Fine,
prison for French natives

Competent courts

Generally depends on the agent who recorded the offence

Court of first instance < High court < Court of Appeal < Supreme court

Defence

A lawyer may defend the accused, but is not essential

The prosecutor defends the State's interests before the penal judge

Archives

Main convictions before the Erika (December 1999)
Main convictions between the Erika and the Prestige (November 2002)
Main convictions since the Prestige

Last update: 01/02/2007