Gove Warned Against Cost Plan for Environmental Cases

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Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have warned the Justice Secretary Michael Gove that proposed changes to cost rules would intimidate most citizens and prevent them from going to court to protect the environment.

In a letter to the UK Secretary of State for Justice, ClientEarth’s Chief Executive James Thornton said Gove’s proposals would make it too expensive and difficult for people to bring cases, stopping them taking action to challenge illegal environmental harm.

Thornton said: “Environmental laws mean nothing without enforcement.  Citizens bringing government to court over bad decisions is essential to make laws work. We cannot allow people to be priced out of protecting their environment or intimidated by arduous legal procedure.”

The UK government’s proposed rules on disclosure of financial information would also discourage people from supporting charities which bring environmental cases, cutting off a second essential route for environmental protection in the UK.

The proposals were put forward as part of a consultation in September 2015.

The UK government is already under scrutiny for failure to provide access to information and the courts, as is required of all signatories to the UN Aarhus Convention on access to justice.

On 9 March, it will have to justify itself to a committee charged with ensuring the law is implemented, after it highlighted shortcomings and ordered the government to address them.

We expect the UK government to release its final plan for cost rules on or shortly after Wednesday 9 March 2016.