In the past decade, despite the fact that the authorities recorded around 82,000 environmental crimes, only 6% of pollution and damage to nature cases have been tried.
Rural fires top the list of environmental crimes (80,595 fires reported between 2010 and 2019) and represent a range of cases 80 times higher than crimes of pollution and damage to nature.
The data was released this Monday by the Jornal de Notícias (JN), which shows that only 1,503 cases related to the three environmental crimes mentioned have been heard in court. Only 16 criminal cases for environmental pollution and 82 for harm to nature were heard – this corresponds to 6.2% of the environmental crimes recorded between 2010 and 2019.
Although the Criminal Code includes hefty sentences that range from 3 to 12 years in prison, environmental crime cases reaching the courts are an exception to the rule. Most fees end with the simple application of a fine. And when the case goes to court, the sentence is usually waived, with a reduction in the fine. There are no records of actual incarceration convictions in Portugal.
Inspector General Brito e Silva told JN that there is a “big difference” in terms of “public perception”, environmental crime and the “way it is legally configured”. Brito e Silva also reiterated that the penalty will be referred to the public administration and security forces and that the fines will be applied to “almost all situations of violation, even the most harmful and criminal deserve”.
The General Inspectorate for Agriculture, Maritime, Environment and Spatial Planning (IGAMAOT), which has been responsible for overseeing court judgments for environmental crimes since 2016, Jornal de Notícias notes that a large part of the decisions taken are not supported by the “judicial authority” a correct understanding of relevance and the consequences of the questions submitted for examination. “
From 2010 to 2019, Justice Department data shows an increase in the record of cases convicted of pollution crimes and natural degradation, but it also points to an excess of complacency about punishment. The increase in complaints is not reflected in the lawsuits, which frustrates complainants.
Text edited by Rita Ferreira