It is becoming increasingly clear that the sanctions available under our current legal system are simply not a good match for complex crimes where there may be many offenders and a wide range of victims, including non-humans. Courts trying the crime of Ecocide will offer restorative justice sentencing alongside traditional sentencing. Read the sentencing guidelines here.
Restorative justice is a visionary approach for healing harm. In a Council of Restorative Justice, the person who has committed Ecocide will engage in a dialogue with those who have been adversely affected by the Ecocide. This may be people, but also can include other beings such as birds or the ecosystem. In the case of non humans, experts such as an ornithologist, or an ecologist will represent them. This is similar to how a guardian will represent a child or a mentally disabled person in court. A dialogue takes place, where participants discuss what happened, and they may reach an agreement as to how to heal this harm. The agreement reached will be different for each case, and has endless possibilities.
The judge will then hand down a sentence that requires the convicted person to take specific steps towards repairing the damaged ecosystem, and to re-direct the activities of his/her company toward non-harmful practices. Restorative Justice has been used widely in other types of crimes where individuals and communities have been harmed, and is used widely as violence prevention strategy. It has been shown to be far more effective at deterring crime, restoring the damage caused and rehabilitating offenders than more traditional sanctions such as prison or fines. For more information visit the UK Restorative Justice Council website.
Restoring Justice – Bannerman and Tench sentenced for Ecocide
On Saturday 31st March 2012 the sentencing of two fictional chief executive officers – Robin Bannerman of Global Petroleum Company (GPC) and John Tench of Glamis Group (GG) took place in a world first event held at the University of Essex organised by the Hamilton Group and theIDCR. Bannerman and Tench were both found guilty of committing Ecocide as a consequence of their oil extractive operations in the Athabasca tar sands, last year in the Ecocide mock trial held at the Supreme Court of England and Wales. The result of the sentencing? Bannerman’s sentence was deferred for six months, Tench got four years in jail… read on to find out more.
Watch a video of the day and interviews with restorative justice participants.
Watch an inspirational message from Vandana Shiva.
Read about the sentence as summarised by His Honour Mr Recorder Lawrie QC who was the Judge in the case.
Read an article on the sentencing - Shareholder Return a Nuremburg defence
A breakdown of the day
Following representations by prosecuting barrister Michael Mansfield QC both offenders were offered the opportunity to enter into a restorative justice conference with the victims. Bannerman accepted whilst Tench declined.
The restorative justice conference took place in a private room facilitated by Lawrence Kershen, chair of the Restorative Justice Council, where Mr Bannerman was joined by Roger Cowe - GPC’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Paddy Briggs – Chairman of GPC’s pension fund. Bannerman also came face to face with representatives of those who had been adversely affected by the tar sands Ecocide: Jess Philimore represented wider humanity, Carine Nadal represented the Earth, Philippa De Boissiere represented future generations, Peter Smith represented birds and Gerald Amos provided a voice for indigenous peoples.
Meanwhile a talk was given on the tar sands by internationally renowned environmental photographer Garth Lenz and presentations made from Essex academics on the political, legal, business and psychological dimensions of environmentalism. Mr Tench also featured on a panel discussion highlighting some very real concerns about the Ecocide Act from an industry perspective.
Not just a sentence — rather a just sentence
When the court reconvened for the formal legal sentencing, the Judge deferred Bannerman’s sentencing for six months allowing him time to make true his promises agreed to in the restorative justice conference which included setting up working groups to look into amongst other things, funding alternative energy sources.
Mr Tench, who refused to take part in the restorative justice process and showed no remorse for committing Ecocide, was sentenced to four years in jail in addition to receiving a formal Restoration Order. The Restoration Order requires Tench to undertake a number of measures including suspending operations in the tar sands until the area affected is restored to an acceptable level, meeting the financial costs of restoration and publicising his actions.
Justice restored? Some afterthoughts…
The process itself wasn’t perfect, but it did demonstrate how restorative justice might work in practice for the corporate crime of Ecocide. It also demonstrated that it really is possible for guardians to speak on behalf of the non human world. The restorative justice threw up many more conundrums, highlighting that by no means is a law of Ecocide a panacea to solve the many interconnected environmental and social crises we are facing, and that deeper systematic changes are necessary if justice is to be truly upheld.
However,a law of Ecocide can end mass environmental destruction and it could also be the much needed catalyst to prompt the kind of systemic change which is truly needed if justice is to be upheld.