Multiple Measures to Strengthen Trial for the Protection of Marine Ecological Environment
In recent years, with firm commitment to and implementation of the concept of “Green Mountains Are Mountains of Gold” and with the aim of serving the construction of Hainan Free Trade Port and the national environmental conservation pilot zone with high-standard and high-quality services, Haikou Maritime Court has been faithfully exercising its functions according to law and strengthening efforts in protecting the marine ecological environment. By performing well in the trial of cases, the court vowed to create a bright spot in maritime trial.
Since 2018, Haikou Maritime Court has accepted more than 80 cases involving the protection of marine ecological environment, and the court handled the province’s first administrative and the first civil public interest litigation cases related to maritime environmental protection according to law. Among them, two cases were selected as the ten typical environment and resources related cases handled by people’s courts in 2019, one of which was among the ten environmental public interest cases of 2019. In trying these cases, the court had played a potent role of maritime justice in protecting the marine environment and enriched the practice of rule of law in this respect, which helped to oversee and support sea-related administrative organs in the exercise of their functions and to enhance the public awareness in marine environmental protection. Multiple measures taken by the court included:
First, establish a professional trial team. Outstanding judges selected within the court, and people’s assessors like experts and scholars who were long engaged in the research of oceanic resources and development of marine industries, as well as members of other political parties were chosen to form a seven-person professional and democratic collegial bench, which was responsible for the trial of marine environmental protection cases. Members of the group had worked closely in every step during the trial, such as analyzing and addressing a series of legal issues like difficult investigation and evidence collection at sea and appraisal of environmental damage and the loss amount.
Second, foster an overall plan to deliver quality case. The court had put in place a pre-arranged plan for trial so that each step would be conducted in line with the requirements and standards designed for a maritime quality case. A special working group and interdepartmental cooperation that engaged the trial, police, publicity and information divisions and support team were in place to ensure smooth handling of cases. To improve the performance and efficiency of case handling, the president and heads of divisions had strengthened oversight and management of cases by following up the progress of cases and hearing reports from the collegial bench.
Third, establish a collaboration platform for marine environmental protection. The court attached great importance to the commutations and collaboration with sea-related administrative organs in daily work. A collaboration platform that enabled interactions between the judiciaries and the administrative organs in the theme of marine environmental protection, discussion meetings, themed researches and contact groups had been established. The court also worked with the People’s Procuratorate of Hainan Province and other organs to draft relevant opinions on public interest litigation cases related to marine ecological environment and resources, aiming at forming a synergy between maritime administrative law enforcement and judicial oversight for the protection of marine environment.
Fourth, introduce innovative trial methods to deliver physical results. By strictly following the environmental protection policies of the State and Hainan Province, the court prudently handled such cases involving an administrative penalty decision that required restoring the reclaimed sea area to its original state. By taking into account of the situations, the overall plan and enforceability as well as the threat of secondary hazards, the court handled each case carefully so as to deliver targeted, lawful and reasonable judgment. Mediation was employed to resolve civil public interest litigation cases related to marine environmental protection. It offered a new model for the trial of such cases in which indemnities were paid in time and in full, litigation costs were cut, and litigation efficiency was improved.
Fifth, raise judicial transparency and judicial credibility. The court actively invited staff members from administrative organs, special guest supervisors, and representatives of businesses and the general public to attend court hearings, by which the oversight and voices of the public were heard by the court. By inviting news media to follow and report the whole process of trial, and attending talk shows on the protection of marine environment, the court welcomed the public to understand and get familiar with the job of maritime judiciaries and raised the public awareness in marine environmental protection.