High Court ruling gives hope to environmental bodies

30th November 2017


A High Court ruling has approved, in part, a judicial review into amendments to civil procedure rules in February 2017, which essentially removed a cap on costs that a person has to pay if they lose a case against a public body.

The case was made by three claimants in the case of R (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Friends of the Earth Limited and Client Earth, all of whom have an interest in protecting the environment) v Secretary of State for Justice and The Lord Chancellor. Their main concern was that the amendment allowed the court to vary the cap at any point in the litigation, which may deter others from bringing an environmental case to court for fear of having to pay extensive costs should they lose the case.

Mr Justice Dove examined the provisions of the EU’s Aarhus Convention, which, among other things, provides for an access to justice in relation to environmental matters. That convention is implemented by each EU member state in different ways through domestic law. Under these rules, cases should not be “prohibitively expensive”.

Bearing this in mind, Mr Justice Dove ruled, on the claimants’ first ground, that any decision on a variation of cost capping should be made at the early stage of proceedings, giving a claimant certainty about potential costs. However, further consideration must be given to other matters of the case at a further hearing.

Image credit: istock

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