Current Developments: Criminal law investigations due to negligent placing of clothing contaminated by harmful substances on the market
We observe at present that the relevant surveillance authorities in Germany adopt the practice of passing the mere exceeding of the statutory limits for chrome-VI (3 mg/kg) in shoes and leather goods to the relevant public prosecutor for criminal law pursuit according to Sec. 58 LFGB.
The criminal law accusation consists in these cases in negligent placing on the market of leather products contaminated with chrome-VI in which from the point of view of the authorities long-term skin contact is to be expected. The exceeding of the statutory limit is thereby alone relied on. Whether from the actual contamination any risk for the safety and health of persons results, is irrelevant for the commission of the relevant criminal offence.
The investigations usually aim at identifying the persons in the company who are responsible for placing the relevant products on the market (e.g. head of QS). If the accusation of negligence cannot be effectively refuted in the investigation proceedings, the imposition of quite serious penalties must be expected. The relevant penalties range between fines or imprisonment of up to one year (in the case of negligence) up to imprisonment of up to 6 years.
While so far in the case of harmful substances being found in shoes and leather goods by the authorities (only) administrative proceedings were usually taken (e.g. prohibition of sale), it must meanwhile be anticipated that the mere finding of harmful substances as such involves such criminal law investigation proceedings.
Having regard to the Chemical Sanctions Regulation and the offence under the LFGB, the criminal offence of negligently placing textiles and clothing products contaminated by harmful substances on the market, in particular the extremely practice-relevant limits for chrome-VI, nickel and azo dyes must be considered.
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