Sweden’s environmental law is “useless” – prosecutors

Today's environmental laws lead to arbitrary, unsound and ineffective judicial application. That is the view of Sweden's environmental prosecutors, writing in a opinion article in Monday's Göteborgs-Posten.

The group’s highly critical analysis left little of Sweden’s environmental legal framework untouched.

“The government and parliament must take a position on what should be criminalised, and what should be allowed and not allowed where the environment is concerned,” they wrote.

The problem stems primarily from the environmental law’s unclear wording on punishments, and the fact that the Swedish regulations do not criminalise any form of emissions, according to the prosecutors.

“Instead, the legislator has chosen to attach decisive significance to the resulting effects of emissions on the local area.”

This, in turn, leads to “unnecessarily complicated, expensive, and in many cases impossible crime investigations”.

Nor did things become any simpler for prosecutors in December 2003 when the Supreme Court arrived at a not guilty verdict in a case where 500 litres of diesel fuel was released, “with a reasoning that raised more questions than it answered”.

The prosecutors’ solution is to criminalise the release of environmentally harmful substances. That is how water pollution laws, which deal with releases into the sea, work today.

The environmental prosecutors appear to be striking while the iron is hot, since their strident criticism coincides with the presentation of a new set of rules by the parliamentary environmental law committee.

But the committee’s proposal only develops the existing structure, argued the prosecutors.

“The construction of the law has already proved itself to be useless,” they wrote.

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