Criminal Justice in Europe: A Comparative Study

By Phil Fennell; Christopher Harding et al. | Go to book overview

In certain other areas the role of interest groups has greatly assisted the Commission in its watchdog role in the Community. This is very much the case in environmental matters where interest groups have started to become a very useful source of 'on the ground' information for the Commission.51 If environmental groups highlight the failure of the relevant national authorities to take action against offending companies, the Commission may then take proceedings against the Member State for its failure to ensure compliance with Community law in accordance with Article 5 or any more specific duties. Such overtures from interest groups are likely to play an important role in Community law enforcement in the future, and certainly need to be encouraged by the Commission as far as possible. Indeed approaches which capitalize on the role of individuals in general enforcement are likely to increase efficiency. Thus the imposition of civil liability in damages for breaches of Community law, as is being proposed in relation to damage caused by waste, may indicate an alternative effective approach to the criminal law for enforcement in certain cases. Consistently from the early years of the Community, both the Commission and the Court have recognized the importance and effectiveness of the role of initiatives by private parties in the enforcement of Community measures.52 But the practical effectiveness of such initiatives in some areas remains to be tested, and depends heavily on the particular circumstances and context of the case.53


CONCLUSION

It is clear, therefore, that the Community system presents a hidden, or at least obscured, agenda of activity in the field of criminal law enforcement for a number of European countries. The practical impact of many Community policies has been both to circumscribe and to prescribe enforcement at the national level in order to ensure the implementation of Community programmes. Moreover, both Member State agencies and private individuals have been enlisted in this enterprise. But the Community impact is not limited to the emergence of Community-based defences and the spawning of new regulatory offences in the field of criminal litigation. It also has implications for national criminal justice policy, particularly as regards the allocation of resources and the relationship between national

____________________
51
Some recognition of the importance of interest groups is found in the Draft Directive on Civil Liability for Damage caused by Waste, which requires in principle that interest groups be allowed to take action in the national courts to ensure that any environmental harm is remedied.
52
Above, n. 36. See also Case C-6/90, Francovich v. Italy [ 1991] ECR 1-5357; [ 1992] IRLR 84.
53
Thus such initiatives appear to have been successful in relation to environmental issues, equal pay, and equal treatment.

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