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UK Environmental Law Association conference briefing note

Jul 07, 2004

UKELA Annual Conference :Access to environmental justice was one of the main themes of the UKELA conference held in Manchester in early July 2004. Guest speaker Rt. Hon. Michael Meacher MP called for far-reaching reform of the environmental justice system.

Former Environment Minister, Rt. Hon. Michael Meacher MP, set out an agenda for a radical reform of the environmental justice system, at the UK Environmental Law Association conference in Manchester last weekend (July 2nd – 4th).

He said penalties for environmental crime were “utterly disgraceful – the message to polluters is ‘pollute away as your chances of being apprehended are quite low. That is unacceptable. They should be required by the court to meet the total costs of clean up. At the moment sentencing is intolerably weak”.

Mr Meacher, addressing 250 environmental lawyers, academics and consultants, proposed a specialist environmental tribunal or court to ensure that cases were dealt with appropriately.

He also proposed a world environment court to deal with international issues.

“We shouldn’t be timid. So much of the damage to the environment occurs internationally – excessive oil spills by Shell in Nigeria, illegal logging in South East Asia and elsewhere and asbestos victims of a UK company operating in South Africa. All these should be subject to the process of justice in the UK courts”.

He also addressed the issue of the high cost of taking action in environmental cases. “We need carefully drafted rules to prevent deterrent cost levels”.

“All this should be addressed via flagship reforms by the next government”.

Other key issues examined at the conference:
 Whether the 2000 legislation on contaminated land is delivering its objective of cleaning up contaminated land and preventing future pollution
 How to provide better information to the public about environmental law
 How Corporate Social Responsibility is changing the way companies operate
 What the new Environmental Liability legislation will do to prevent serious damage to natural resources

Notes to the editors:

Notes to editors:
1. . UKELA is the UK forum, which aims to make the law work for a better environment and to improve understanding and awareness of environmental law. UKELA’s members are involved in the practice, study or formulation of environmental law in the UK and the European Union. It attracts both lawyers and non lawyers and has a broad membership.
2. Detailed papers, some including latest facts and figures on the topics mentioned above, are available on request.
3. For further information contact: UKELA’s Executive Officer, Vicki Elcoate 01306 501320.
4. The conference was sponsored by Landmark, Environment Agency, Groundsure, ERM, Argyll Environmental, Quanta, 39 Essex Street, XL Environmental , and hosted by Cobbetts.

UK Environmental Law Association - Better law for the environment
Registered charity 299498; company registered in England number 2133283
Registered office: One Glass Wharf, Bristol, BS2 0ZX

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