Government proposals threaten environmental justice?

Costs Protection in Environmental Claims – access to justice under threat?

Thursday’s article in the Law Society Gazette expresses serious concerns about the Ministry of Justice current consultation on access to environmental justice.  The consultation which closes on Thursday threatens to seriously undermine the recently introduced rules which had previously allowed many claimants access to environmental justice for the first time.

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Carol Day regards the proposal which seeks to confine eligibility to a member of the public could exclude community groups, parish councils and even environmental NGOs from costs protection. The proposals may also exclude legislation impacting on the environment that does not specifically mention the environment in its title or heading (such as environmental taxes, control of chemicals or wastes, exploitation of natural resources and pollution from ships) from review.  The existing, perfectly workable rules were only introduced in 2013 and fully comply with EU and international law.  In the views of many Judicial Review is an essential foundation in the rule of law.

Regular readers might also recall Carol’s guest blog here when she appealed to us all to respond to the proposed changes.  Can we rally and send a mail box full of responses to the MoJ?  Any of you who have been involved in research and collation or putting together ‘bundles’ for a Judicial  Review will understand and appreciate that such work is not undertaken lightly, any of you who have had to find the funds for such action will fully appreciate the difficulties so for government to place more hurdles in communities, an individual or a charities way might forgive us for suggesting it is an affront to democracy?

A letter to The Times today, addressed to Michael Gove MP and signed by Lord Brennan QC, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, Dr Elaine King (director of Wildlife & Countryside Link), Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC, Baroness Parminter, Sir Stephen Sedley and Baroness Young of Old Scone deems the proposals to be a ‘backwards step’.  They assert that there is no evidential basis for the changes, a view shared by many who have written extensively on the issue.  The signatories ‘urge the government to withdraw the unjustified and damaging proposals in the interests of protecting the environment, checking the abuse of power and u[pholding the rule of law’.

Readers are encouraged to respond to the Ministry of Justice consultation here.

There is an excellent briefing “Costs Protection in Environmental Claims” via Wildlife and Countryside Link and also one by Friends of the Earth.  The consultation is aimed at organisations, but Mark Avery offers a bit of guidance when it comes to responding to that particular aspect of the proposals.

Hard enough to challenge Public Bodies, statutory agencies and authorities as it is and given they are funded through the public purse there has to be a right of reply?  If politicians words about open, transparent and accountable government are to have any credibility then a legitimate claim should be allowed to anable the public to challenge, in the interests of environmental justice, bad decisions?

Submit responses to the MoJ consultation here:

Costs Protection in Environmental Protection

Deadline for responses Thursday 10 December 2015.

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