Press release: 21 July 2021

Government ‘part-immunising itself against court rebuke’ – ClientEarth responds to ‘unsettling’ UK justice reform

The UK Government has today released a Bill set to change the judicial review process – people’s route to court when a public body has made an unlawful decision.

Lawyers at ClientEarth have been following the process carefully and have expressed deep concern about the proposed changes, saying that they could mean fewer judicial review cases would get to court, with less impact when they do – which has alarming implications for environmental protection.

ClientEarth lawyer Gillian Lobo said: “As well as its vital role protecting people’s rights, including those of workers and migrants, judicial review plays a major role in environmental protection – nature cannot stand up for itself, and on the road to net zero, there absolutely must be a route for unlawful decision-making to be challenged by the public and NGOs.

“Judicial review gave us a route to court to defend people in the UK from illegal air pollution, and to challenge approval for Europe’s biggest fossil gas plant being built here in the UK. Any changes implemented are likely to make it harder for people to speak out for our environment – and for judges to reverse unlawful decisions.

“By all appearances, with this Bill, the UK Government is spending overstretched time and resources on part-immunising itself against court rebuke – and that is a deeply unsettling development. This is all the more worrying when it has failed over a number of years to comply with international access to justice law on the environment.

“The Government and other public authorities must make the best decisions they can in all our interests – and knowing that there is a ‘judge over their shoulder’ is an added incentive for them to do things right. There is a clear risk that these proposals will make it more difficult for people, businesses and charities to get justice – including for the environment – when they need it.”


About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.