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Changes to judicial review are pricing communities out of justice | Friends of the Earth

What has changed?

Until February 2017, there was a fixed limit on the amount losing a case could cost you.

For individuals, the maximum of the other side’s legal costs you could be made to pay was £5,000. For organisations like Friends of the Earth it was £10,000.

This limit, although still a considerable cost, meant that you knew where you stood when taking a case.

It gave people some certainty over how much they might have to pay, and therefore allowed people to take cases in the public interest knowing it wasn’t going to bankrupt them.

New changes made by the government have removed the fixed limit, meaning that your costs could now be increased, at any point during the process.

Instead of being sure that you can pay the full costs of a case – you now won’t know how much that will be. And may end up getting struck with huge court bills once it’s already too late to back out.

What does this mean?

We don’t know how much every case will cost going forward now the fixed limit has been removed, but we do know how much some used to cost before it was introduced in the first place.

When Lilian Pallikaropoulos challenged the Environment Agency over health concerns arising from a local incinerator, she was landed with a massive £90,000 bill.

Who would dare take a case if losing could mean such a hefty sum?

Unfortunately, now we might see a situation where only the very wealthy are in a position to risk such a huge amount of money to stand up for their local environment.

This could mean a huge reduction in the number of cases and lots of bad decisions going unchallenged.

But don’t just take my word for it. In February 2017 a House of Lords Committee report concluded with concerns that “as a result of the increased uncertainty introduced by these changes, people with a genuine complaint will be discouraged from pursuing it in the courts”.

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Changes to judicial review are pricing communities out of justice | Friends of the Earth.