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High Court fast-tracks challenge to new environmental justice rules

Words: Huw Morris

The High Court is fast-tracking a challenge by green campaigners against new environmental justice rules introduced by the government.

Mr Justice Dove made the ruling – in the case brought by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB – because the new rules are already having an impact. He also placed a cap of £10,000 on the costs for the three charities.

The group claims the new rules weaken financial protection for people bringing a case, leaving them to face unspecified legal costs in return for going to court to protect the environment. Judges will be able to increase the costs cap at any stage, making it impossible to know how much a case will cost from the start.

The group argues claimants could be forced to reveal their personal finances in open court, plus the finances of any donors supporting the case.

ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton said: “People must be able to go to court to defend their environment. The government’s new rules cynically undermine this right. By fast-tracking our case and protecting us from debilitating legal costs, the judge has clearly signalled the importance of our challenge to the government.”

The government has until May 11 to file its defence, and the claimants have seven days to reply after this deadline, and then a hearing will be set.


Image: iStock