Environmental crime

Environmental crimes comprise many different areas – everything from hunting and fishing to pollution from seagoing vessels. Accordingly, there is no uniform definition. The majority of Swedish environmental legislation is collected in the Swedish Environmental Code. During 2017, approximately 4,700 violations of the Environmental Code were reported; this is a 13 per cent decrease as compared with the preceding year.

Reported environmental offences

Reported offences against the environmental code, of which environmental crimes (including aggravated) and littering, 2008-2017. Source: Reported offences

Environmental crime comprises polluting soil, the air, or water or in another way affecting the environment so as to injure animals and plants or human health.

The most commonly reported and successfully prosecuted violations of the environmental code are environmental crimes (for example pollution or nuisances), impermissible environmental activities (authorisation for a specific activity is lacking or the conditions are not met), and littering. The majority of the suspected persons are middle-aged men. The detected offences take place primarily in commercial activities.

Public authorities often report environmental crimes

All operations which are deemed to constitute a risk to the environment require authorisation from a supervisory authority. The authorisation imposes a number of requirements which the operator must satisfy, and these requirements are often the point of departure in conjunction with a suspicion of environmental crime.

Most environmental crimes are probably never detected, much less reported. The environmental crime often lacks a clear victim, unlike the situation when a person is robbed or assaulted. Accordingly, the crimes are primarily detected through verification and supervision on the part of public authorities. This means that increased control has a direct breakthrough effect on the crime statistic.

Prior to 2007, only reported offences where there was a reasonably suspected person were accounted for. During that year, a new system was instituted which provides a better picture of the actual number of reported offences.

Cleared offences

Person-based clearance rate¹ for violations of the Environmental Code, 2006 – 2015. Source: Processed offences

1) Person-based clearance means that a person suspected of the offence has been tied to the offence through an indictment, the issuance of a summary sanction order, or the issuance of a waiver of prosecution.

  • The person-based clearance rate reports the number of offences with person-based clearances during one year as a percentage of the number of processed offences during the same year. As from 2014, an adjusted person-based clearance rate is reported. The metric is essentially structured in the same way as previously, however, it is calculated based on all processed offences instead of all reported offences.

  • The conviction rate reports the number of person-based clearances during one year as a per cent of all investigated offences, excluding offences with limitations of investigation during the same period.