The ENPE database for environmental case law and related documents
Please note that the database is still under construction. Categories for the Waste Section are complete, but the number of cases included is as yet small. Categories for the Air Pollution and the Wildlife Sections are being developed.
Background, objectives and scope
The ENPE database aims at supporting the network of environmental public prosecutors in the EU by providing them with relevant criminal case law and related documents from the various Member States. For the time being, it covers the three areas of environmental law in which ENPE has chosen to begin its activities. These are Air Pollution, (Transfrontier Shipments of) Waste and Wildlife. Originally, the database was developed within the European Network for Implementation of Environmental Law (IMPEL www.impel.eu/) organisation and dedicated to waste only, but by courtesy of IMPEL, it was transferred to ENPE in 2016. The reason for this was that as an instrument for the exchange of criminal law, it was considered to be better placed within an association of prosecutors.
The essence of the ENPE database as it is envisaged, is: a collection of criminal sentences from the Member States as supplied by prosecutors and others.
Of course, the decisive authority for the interpretation of environmental EU law is the Court of Justice of the EU, of which the jurisprudence is already accessible through Eur-Lex. The ENPE database, however, has two advantages:
- Firstly, it shows day to day cases and these decisions do not depend on preliminary proceedings;
- And secondly, it shows what penalties judges in Europe impose for this type of criminality.
Because the main function of the database is supporting the ENPE network of prosecutors, access to it is not public, but is subject to authorisation by ENPE.
What the ENPE database offers
The database provides criminal case law in three environmental subject areas from the various Member States in the original languages. Decisions can be found by searching by relevant terms in English and a first impression of their content can be obtained through a summary (‘judgment’) in English. Users who are interested in a specific case but are not familiar with the language concerned can have the full text officially translated, use Google translate or contact – if indicated – the prosecutor responsible for the case for further information.
Limitations of the ENPE database
The database is by no means exhaustive. It depends on the supplying of content by prosecutors and others and it has no connection with national case law collections. Therefore, it cannot be expected to have, for instance, all Swedish criminal case law on wildlife crime or all Spanish criminal courts’ decisions on air pollution.
It is also important to note two characteristics of the case law included in the database:
- Firstly, it is non-operational and concerned with legal aspects only. This has the benefit that there are hardly any privacy issues involved. Names of defendants and other identifying information are left out. For the exchange of this sort of information, other channels are available which are subject to specific rules of law;
- Secondly, inclusion in the database does not imply any evaluation of the decision concerned. A verdict in the database on any subject is not necessarily in line with the case law of the Court of Justice and decisions in the database may conflict. The ENPE database is meant to be helpful for the exchange of legal knowledge and for legal analysis, but it does not decide matters of law.
All users of the database are kindly requested to supply relevant case law, with a summary in English and the relevant categories, to ENPE through their national contact prosecutor for ENPE or through the Working Group concerned. Details can be found elsewhere on the ENPE website.
How to use the ENPE database
After logging in on the ENPE website, the database can be found under ‘Crimes’ in the top bar. ‘Search Crimes’ leads to the case law collection in the database. ‘Search Documents’ leads to the collection of related documents such as presentations and policy documents.
All case law in the database is specified by
- a title,
- ‘Judgment,’ which is a summary of the case in English,
- general categories (‘Verdict’ ‘Defendant,’ ‘Court Level’ and ‘Member State’) and
- specific categories (for instance ‘Direction of Transportation’ in the Waste Section or ‘Illegal Activity’ in the Wildlife Section).
A search can be carried out by a specification or a combination of specifications.
The first screen in ‘Search Crimes’ shows
- a tick box ‘Type of Crime’ with the three subject areas,
- the general categories ‘Judgment,’ ‘Verdict,’ ‘Defendant,’ ‘Court Level’ and ‘Member State,’
- the Search and Reset buttons and
- a list of the ten most recently added cases.
Ticking one of the three subject areas in the box ‘Type of Crime’ leads to the page pertaining to a subject area on which also the specific categories for that area are shown.
A search can be carried out by clicking on a category or combination of categories and then using the ‘Search’ button. Similarly, via the box ‘Judgment,’ the case summaries can be searched for any term.
A successful search leads to a list of one or more cases being shown at the bottom of the page. Clicking on an entry in this list leads to a page with relevant information about that case and under ‘Attachments,’ the case document itself in the original language can be found.
Related documents can be found through any term in the box ‘Document Description.’ They can also be searched through the category ‘Member State.’