12:32, September 15 262 0 theguardian.com

2017-09-15 12:32:03
Green groups claim 'important victory' in challenge to legal costs rules

Conservation and environmental groups have claimed an “important victory” in their high court challenge to new legal costs rules which they say make it much harder to bring cases to protect the environment.

In February, the government scrapped fixed-cost caps that limited how much people and charities had to pay if they lost a case against a public body.

The RSPB, Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth argued the new rules threatened to have a “chilling effect” on litigation and failed to provide people with early certainty of their court costs.

Mr Justice Dove, sitting in London, said their case was “successful in part”, but a further hearing would be necessary to decide “what relief should flow” from his judgment and what orders he should make.

The groups welcomed the ruling, saying the judgment told the government its new rules for environmental legal cases must be changed to protect environmental claimants.

A group spokesman said on Friday: “Today’s verdict is an important victory in the battle for better access to justice in England and Wales.

“Now, the rules favour people and charities who want to hold the government to account – not the other way round. Everybody has the right to environmental justice and we will keep the pressure up until that right is realised.”

The spokesman said another victory was that the judge ruled claimants would no longer have to reveal their private financial details in open court.

He said: “Any hearing about costs protection limits will now take place in private. The Ministry of Justice must change its rules to include this, so that they are lawful.”