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Green groups have been unable to challenge instances of pollution in court because of prohibitive costs
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Activists fight to save 'people's law on the environment'


23rd September, 2009

Ruling would allow NGOs and individuals to challenge environmental damage in courts without prohibitive financial risks

A team of activist lawyers are to start a legal challenge to get UK courts to accept Aarhus Convention on access to justice.

In a case being heard by the UN in Geneva tomorrow, lawyers from ClientEarth will argue that bad environmental decisions are not being challenged because of the unreasonable financial risks of bringing a case to court.

Under the Aarhus Convention, ratified both in the EU and UK in 1998, NGO's and individuals should not be denied because of the prohibitive costs of bringing cases.

Recently, the Marine Conservation Society was unable to mount a legal challenge against allegations of toxic waste dumping near the Port of Tyne, Newcastle, because of fears over the potentially crippling costs of losing the case.

'Not only is it prohibitively expensive to bring cases in the UK,' said ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, 'the financial risk of losing a court challenge and having to pay the opposition’s legal expenses can amount to £100,000s.

'Until the UK makes the legal system accessible and fair from a financial perspective, citizens and many organisations are in effect denied their right to raise legitimate environmental concerns in court.'

A decision on ClientEarth's case is expected within three months.

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