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Victory for UK environment as judge says cost rules must change

The High Court has today told the UK government that its new rules for environmental cases must be changed to protect those taking legal action.

In his judgement today, Mr Justice Dove said the rules would benefit from further clarification in key ways but that they will remain in place. The government must now make the changes.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) had resisted calls from environmental charities to clarify and amend their rules so they would not be used unlawfully, and had – until now – strenuously resisted.

The rules, introduced in February 2017, scrapped fixed costs limits on how much individuals and charities had to pay if they lost a case against a public body.

Now, with the High Court ruling, caps will still be fixed at the beginning of a case, which will allow people or charities taking a case to know how much it will cost them at the start.

This was in line with the case put forward by the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth  against the MOJ.

In a statement following the judgement, the three charities said: “Today’s verdict is an important victory in the battle for better access to justice in England and Wales.

“People who bravely stand up for nature by going to court can now do so in the knowledge that, once the costs are fixed, they will not be blindsided by a crippling legal bill they were not expecting and hadn’t budgeted for.

Another victory from the hearing is that claimants will no longer have to reveal their private financial details in open court, as any hearing about costs protection limits will now take place in private. The MOJ must change its rules to include this, so that they are lawful.”

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Jonathan Ford