Those caught polluting the sea will soon be facing criminal sanctions after the European Parliament approved new legislation.

MEPs gave the green light to a directive to slap criminal penalties on ships that cause pollution, not just for serious cases but also for minor ones if they recur, are deliberately caused or are the result of serious negligence.

Member states, including Malta, now have 12 months to change their legislation. The sanctions to impose will be up to individual countries to determine.

The law, proposed by Spanish EPP member Luis de Grandes, says that discharge of every type polluting substance will be regarded as a criminal offence.

Less serious cases need not be considered a criminal offence but if they recur they will be considered as a crime and punished with effective penalties.

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