Those who get caught in the act of committing environmental crimes such as gold mining, illegal logging or hunting in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica will be judged within 24 hours, according to a new resolution issued by Costa Rica’s Supreme Court.
Supreme Court justices authorized legal proceedings in environmental crimes committed in the cantons of Golfito, Osa and Coto Brus to be judged at a local flagrancy court – un tribunal de flagrancia in Spanish – instead of being transferred to a criminal court in another location.
In Costa Rica, a flagrancy court allows judges to convict within 24 hours suspects who are caught in the act of committing a crime.
Officials of the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) welcomed the justices’ decision because “environmental crimes cases usually take up to two or more years to be resolved by the courts to which they are transferred,” a SINAC press release said.
Costa Rica’s Southern Zone includes the Osa Peninsula, one of the richest regions in the world in terms of biodiversity, boasting nearly 2 percent of animal and plant species found around the world.
The first conviction of a flagrant felony was handed down last Friday when five people were caught mining gold by staff of the Osa Conservation Area. A sentencing date has not yet been set, but is expected in coming days.
Environmental crimes have sentences ranging from three months to five years in prison, plus fines.
Last December, Costa Rica became the first country on the continent to ban hunting for sport.