Katinka De Clercq & Carole M. Billiet, Prioritaire dossiers inzake biodiversiteitsmisdrijven: het bestuurlijke bestraffingsbeleid in Vlaanderen [Biodiversity crimes with priority status: the administrative punitive sanctioning policy in Flanders], in Carole M. Billiet (ed.), Biodiversiteitsmisdrijven in eigen land: in Vlaamse savannes en Waalse regenwouden – La criminalité en matière de biodiversité chez nous: des savanes flamandes et forêts pluviales wallonnes, Brugge, die Keure, 2018, 277-345
In Belgium, as in many other countries, administrative decisions with an individual bearing are not published. This explains why the sanctioning policy of environmental administrations used to be a black box. This paper investigates the sanctioning policy of the Enforcement Department of the Flemish Region, an administration competent to impose punitive sanctions for environmental offences committed on regional territory. It studied the full case-load of biodiversity crimes with priority status handled by the agency between January 1st 2015 and 30 June 2016: 104 files good for 89 decisions (15 cases of unsuccessful transaction proposals moving to fining procedures still pending while wrapping up research). The analysis confirmed that administrative fine levels stay at the bottom of the fine margin allowed for by law (legal maximum at that time: 1.500.000 EUR): the highest fine imposed in the case-load studied was 9.036 EUR. It laid bare the detailed calculation tree that the administration had developed to assure consistency in fine levels. This calculation tree gives a prominent place to the gravity of the facts, corrected upward for eventual repeated offending, this sum being next diminished or raised according to mitigating and aggravating elements detected in the circumstances of the offending. Additionally, proven lack of financial means can reduce the fine level. The same is true for an unreasonable duration of the fining procedure. The administrative forfeiture of illegal benefits is seldom used. Administrative transactions sanction an increasing amount of offences considered to be less serious.
Full publication (Dutch) here.