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Criminal law and public health: health crisis and criminal responsibility within the State?

Apr 2, 2020

Since the major public health trials such as those on contaminated blood or growth hormones, the serious health crisis currently facing the country could lead some litigants to seek the criminal responsibility of high-level public decision-makers.

Thus, as the spread of the COVID19 virus is raging, some may be tempted to consider bringing personal charges against members of the government before the Court of Justice of the Republic, in particular for endangering the lives of others, obstructing assistance measures or failing to provide assistance.

However, the implementation of such actions would make it necessary to examine carefully the individual acts that may characterise these offences.

As an example, the offence of endangering the life of another person involves demonstrating a manifestly deliberate breach of a particular obligation of safety or prudence, having directly exposed another person to an immediate risk of death or injury likely to result in mutilation or permanent disability.

It would therefore depend on decisions taken on the basis of the information available at the time whether or not acts attributable to such persons would be capable of constituting an offence.