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Netherlands / Supreme Court / 16/02616

Public Prosecutor v accused

Policy area:
Agriculture
Deciding Body type:
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding Body:
Supreme Court
Type:
Decision
Decision date:
14/02/2017

Key facts of the case: 

The Public Prosecutor accused a farmer of purposely using wrong eartags for a cow so that it would seem that these animals were in compliance with the meaning of those eartags. The accused was also said to have reported about these means of identification to the government in the wrong way and used the eartags in a wrong way time and again. The lawyer defending the accused argued that the he had already received lower subsidies due to this issue and that he therefore could not be prosecuted, as this would amount to being punished twice for the same issue. The Court of Appeal held that, pursuant to Article 50 of the Charter, no one shall be liable to be tried or punished again in criminal proceedings for an offence for which he or she has already been finally acquitted or convicted within the Union in accordance with the law. According to the Court of Appeal, the envisaged prosecution and fine had the same origin as the withdrawal of subsidies. The administrative and penal tracks concurred here, which is a problem in view of the fact that no one shall be punished twice for the same offence. The Court of Appeal therefore held that the appeal by the Public Prosecutor, who felt he could still prosecute the farmer, was not admissable. The Supreme Court held that the withdrawal of subsidies is not of a penal nature, however. For example, the aim of the sanction is not repression, but in essence leads to the good management of EU funds. Moreover, there is no problem of the administrative and penal tracks concurring, because the penal court may take into consideration the withdrawal of subsidies when it decides on a fine. The accused may be prosecuted.

Outcome of the case: 

The withdrawal of subsidies was considered an administrative measure, not aimed at repression, but at managing EU funds and regulations properly. It was therefore considered not to be the same as a fine, which is aimed at punishing someone for an offence.