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The European Court of Justice has struck down an item of European legislation which had sought to impose minimum terms of imprisonment for certain breaches of the Directive (2005/35/EC) on ship source pollution.

The court held that criminal law and procedural rules generally fall out with Community competence. But, when the application of criminal penalties by national authorities is an essential measure for combating environmental offences, the Community may require Member States to introduce penalties to ensure effectiveness.

However, the court found that the determination of the type and level of criminal penalties to be applied was not within the Community’s competence and should be left to each Member State to determine.

Judgement: C-440/05 may be accessed via the website of the ECJ at the following link.

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