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Access to Justice

Nov 30, 2004

UKELA on Access to Justice: UKELA has published a position paper on the costs of environmental litigation in advance of a major access to justice conference.

Cutting the cost of going to court to address environmental problems, and setting up an environmental tribunal, are two urgently needed reforms, says the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) (1).

The charity, which aims to make the law work for a better environment, is one of those attending a government run conference on Tuesday (November 30th) to discuss access to environmental justice issues(2).

The conference will be addressed by Defra Minister, Elliot Morley MP, and Harriet Harman MP, the Solicitor General, and UKELA will be urging them to take on board its concerns.
Currently the risk of incurring the costs of the other side deters many ordinary people from going to court to try to resolve environmental problems.

In a position statement published today UKELA says:
 The current costs rule, where the loser generally pays the winner’s costs, acts as a barrier to starting environmental judicial review cases brought in the public interest(3)
 The Government and judiciary should work towards removing this barrier
 Costs protection should be available where there is a public interest and the case has merit
 Judges should make greater use of rulings, early on in proceedings, to remove the costs risk
UKELA is also urging the Government to:
 Investigate the costs and benefits of setting up a specialist environmental tribunal to hear some appeals
 Consider the use of civil penalties, as in the USA, for environmental crimes
 Provide better access to environmental law information to the person in the street

Notes to the 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. The conference aims to investigate further work that has emerged from various research projects, mainly commissioned by Defra, into aspects of access to justice in environmental matters, including environmental tribunals or courts; sentencing practice; costs; civil penalties; and access to environmental advice and information. The conference is organised by Defra, the Environmental Law Foundation and the Law Society.
3. Co-convenor of UKELA’s environmental litigation working party, Justine Thornton (a practising lawyer) is available for interview on the costs issue.
UKELA can provide interviewees relating to topical cases where the current costs rules are an issue. If you want to arrange this please contact Vicki Elcoate.

Vicki Elcoate: UKELA Executive Officer 01306 501320 (mob: 07817 675953)

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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