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The EU is to refer environmental offences away from the civil courts and over to the criminal courts, according to the BBC.

The BBC cites a leaked proposal, which The Register has not seen, which it says outlines specific environmental offences that would be punishable by fines and jail time.

In explaining the need for the laws, the commission writes: "Environmental crime often has a transboundary nature...offenders are therefore currently in a position to exploit the existing differences between member states".

The commission proposing legislation is nothing new, but until a ruling in the European Court of Justice, it had no powers to set criminal penalties; that was left to member states to sort out, as they transcribe directives into national legislation.

Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope describes the move as "a significant transition of power to the commission".

He told the Beeb: "The decision on whether or not to criminalise offences in Britain should be a matter for Britain, not for the EU. We all support penalties against environmental vandals but this sets an alarming precedent."

The draft proposal would see sentences of between one and three years handed out for offences related to the transfer, treatment, and dumping of waste. For intentional breaches of the law, offenders could be looking at 10 years in a cell, and a fine of up to €750,000. ®

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