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Environmental Justice Bill: reform needed now

Jun 20, 2005

A Bill for reforms to the justice system is urgently needed to provide better protection for the environment, leading academics and lawyers pressed at the UK Environmental Law Association’s weekend conference in Edinburgh.

Richard Macrory, a barrister and professor of law at University
College London, set out five key points that should be included in
an Environmental Justice Bill. “This package would improve
consistency and confidence in the application of environmental law”, he told delegates. Before the general election the Government had indicated it would consider such a Bill.

Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw QC, a leading Scottish advocate, said the current system led to “a whole host of problems for challenging environmental problems for the public and for businesses”.

And Ruth Chambers, of the watchdog, the Council for National Parks, told the conference that a judicial review it had brought against a major development in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, threatened the organisation with crippling costs because of the current rules.

Professor Macrory’s five points were, he said, an interlocking
package “not for negotiation”. What was needed were:
 Civil penalties to deal with environmental offences which weren’t
intentional or reckless
 A due diligence defence for criminal environmental offences
 Wider sentencing possibilities for magistrates and greater use of
District Judges Reform of the costs rule in judicial review so that each party
 would bear their own costs in cases of public importance (whereas now the loser may be liable for all the costs)
 Local environmental tribunals to hear appeals (eg on contaminatedland, licences and permits, appeals against civil penalties, and appeals of third parties). The tribunals would not replace the existing roles of criminal and ordinary civil courts in
environmental law but perform a distinctive function within the
system.

“The significance of getting this debate right is essential if we
are to restore public confidence in the application and enforcement of environmental law", said Professor Macrory

Notes to the editors:

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 uropean Union. It attracts both lawyers and non lawyers and has a broad membership.

Vicki Elcoate
UKELA Executive Officer
01306 501320/ mobile 07817675953
vicki.elcoate@ntlworld.com

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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