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Challenge to cost amendments in environmental disputes

Published:

Re: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds & Ors v Secretary of State for Justice & Anor [2017] EWHC 2309 (Admin)

The claimant environmental NGOs challenged the legality of the amendments which affected cost protection in environmental legal disputes that engage the Aarhus Convention. The Court held that if the defendants wished to vary the default costs caps, it should be done in the acknowledgement of service. Later applications could only be made if a claimant had misled the court as to their means or their means had materially changed. An application made after this or in other circumstances would breach EU principles. Similarly, the Court submitted that if a hearing was to be held about the appropriate level of costs caps, the rules should provide for the hearing to be in private in the first instance. The chilling effect which the prospect of public disclosure of personal financial information (of either an individual claimant or a donor to an NGO or campaign group) would have the potential to breach requirements to ensure access to justice.

David Wolfe QC was involved in this case.