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Question of Penal Responsibility of Corporate Persons in Belgian Law

NCJ Number
Revue de droit penal et de criminologie Volume: 60 Issue: 3 Dated: (March l980) Pages: 191-223
P Delatte
Date Published
33 pages
The Belgian legal principle exempting corporate entities from criminal reponsibility are cited and existing mechanisms for mitigating effects of damages from offenses by corporate entities are discussed.
Belgian law does not expressly exempt corporate entities from legal responsibility. Instead, exemption is based on the principles of individuality of punishment, of nontransferability of responsibility from one person to another, and of expiation, which is not possible for corporate entities. At the same time, certain legal mechanisms are used to control offenses committed by commercial organizations. Such mechanisms include prosecution under accountability laws applying to individuals involved in offenses, the civil responsibility of corporate entities to pay fines imposed by the courts for damages, and penal sanctions against individuals which affect corporate entities (e.g., closing an establishment because of offenses by a producer, distributor, and importer). Other possible penalties are imposition of social defense measures such as administrative sanctions and prosecution for unfair competitition; dissolution of the organization; and payment of fines. Despite certain passages in laws which mention responsibility of corporate entities, no provisions can be found in existing Belgian law which contradict the traditional policy of exclusion of corporate entities from penal responsibility. A movement favoring introduction of the notion of criminal responsibility for corporate entities is gathering strength in Belgium and such action is recommended by the Ministry of Justice commission for revision of the criminal code. The types of organizations affected and the kinds of penalties to be applied must be defined exactly. Notes are supplied. --in French.


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