Imposing a prison sentence for environmental infractions is a rare event in Israel, but it happened recently. A District Court rejected an appeal by a person convicted of running an unauthorized waste disposal site, and the offenders were ordered to pay over 1 million shekels in fines.
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Brothers Tziki and Avi Arviv appealed to the court after being convicted by a lower Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Letzion for running an unauthorized site that collected dry garbage in Moshav Ben Zakai on the coastal plain. A large amount of waste accumulated at the site, and it was only removed after a series of legal procedures taken by the Environment Protection Ministry.
The Rishon Letzion court convicted the two on several counts, sentencing Tziki Arviv to six months in prison. The company he ran with his brother was ordered to pay a particularly high fine of 1.4 million shekels ($350,000).
A prison sentence for environmental pollution is almost unprecedented in Israeli legal history.
The appellants noted that the prison sentence was exceptional and unprecedented. It was argued that punishment should be meted out more moderately, the fine was also unusually high and the court disregarded the fact that the waste was eventually removed. The ministry countered that the two had totally disregarded the law and ignored warnings they received, so the punishment should be severe.
The District Court partially accepted the appeal, shortening but not overturning the prison sentence, setting it at 60 days. It also reduced the fine imposed, setting it at one million shekels ($250,000).
In their sentencing the judges claimed that a prison sentence was warranted since the accused persisted in breaking the law for four years. They could have avoided the indictment entirely by removing the waste in a timely manner.
The court stated that Tziki Arviv displayed total contempt for the law, describing the appellants as environmental thugs. They agreed to shorten the prison sentence since one of the charges in the indictment was cancelled and the waste was removed before sentencing. The court determined that the heavy fines were appropriate since the infractions were carried out for financial gain.