Alain Hebrard et al. v. Public Prosecutor’s Office

No description
June 19, 2020
Final judgment
France, Caen

Economic stakeholders, Farmers
Hebrard Alain, Laroze Benoît, SARL Laroze et fils, GAEC Saint-Lo, EARL Joret, SCEA de la Quenaudière, SARL Emilie Saint, EARL Pierric Neel, SCEA de la Bergerie, Join Jean-Marie, Lefbvre Julien, Quesnault Jeremy
Public Prosecutor
Philippe de Castro, François Lafforgue

Criminal court
Nematicide, Dichloropropene
To contest the judgement of the first instance court of Coutances of 19 May 2021
Court of Appeal of Caen, France
No description

February 10, 2023
8 vegetable farms and their 3 intermediaries sentenced to fines ranging from €10,000 to 80,000. The intermediary who ordered the products in Spain sentenced to €80.000 of fines including 30.000 with suspended sentence. The man who grouped the orders was fined €60,000, of which €30,000 was suspended. The company of agricultural work which spread the product at night and made false pruning invoices condemned to €20.000 of fine of which 10.000 with suspension.

In a judgment of February 10, 2023, the Court of Appeal of Caen condemned the carrot farmers of Créances (Manche) for their possession and illegal use of dichloropropene as well as their intermediaries for having placed this plant protection product on the market and having recommended its use. The use of this active substance had been banned by the European Union in 2009, with possible derogations, as in France until 2018.

The Court thus confirmed the judgment rendered in first instance by the Court of Coutances on May 19, 2021, of which only one of the intermediaries, Pascal Madeleine, had not appealed. The latter had been sentenced to a fine of 60,000 euros, 30,000 of which were suspended, for advertising and recommending a pesticide product without marketing authorization.

Following a report to the Coutances public prosecutor's office, an investigation was opened in 2020 and determined that dichloropropene was purchased and imported illegally from Spain and used and spread in the Créances area by farmers. The invoicing of these products was done in the form of false invoices concealing the origin and nature of these products. According to Ouest France, the National Brigade of Veterinary and Phytosanitary Investigations (BNEVP) found, during its visits, 200 empty cans of this substance before detecting its recent presence in the samples of soil taken. In fine, nearly 100 tons were spread between February 2018 and November 2020.

The Court of Appeal of Caen confirmed the sentences pronounced in first instance, while increasing the amount of fines. The first intermediary Alain Hebrard, who ordered the products in Spain, was sentenced to 50,000 euros in fines and a 6-month suspended prison sentence for advertising, recommending (L 253-15 of the Rural and Maritime Fishing Code) and placing on the market in an organized gang (Article 132-71 of the Penal Code) of phytosanitary products without a Marketing Authorization (MA), as well as for money laundering aggravated by the assistance of professionals in the false justification of the origin of goods (Article 324-1 of the Criminal Code). The agricultural company - SARL Laroze - which applied the product at night and which made false invoices for pruning was fined 20,000 euros, 10,000 of which were suspended, for applying phytopharmaceutical products without a marketing authorization. As for the farmers and farms, they were sentenced for possession and use of pesticides without a marketing authorization (article L 253-15 of the rural code), failure to carry out disposal operations for pesticides without a marketing authorization (L 253- 15 of the rural code), as well as forgery and use of forgeries by a legal entity. Their fines amount to between 8,000 and 30,000 euros.

The admissibility of the civil parties was confirmed and their indemnities increased.

In addition, the Court also ordered the publication of a press release in the newspaper Ouest France regional edition with a designation of the names of those convicted of the facts in question and the admissibility and compensation of the civil parties associations. Moreover, the producers will have to destroy their stocks considered unfit for sale and consumption.

The farmers have appealed to the Court of Cassation to challenge the ruling.