environmental law centre

about elc law health environment

hot gossip!

Civil Legal Aid has always been very limited in environmental cases and not available at all for Public Inquires.

Now it is being abolished and replaced with the ill-conceived no win no fee contingency scheme - completely useless for non damages related environmental cases, or for cases with less than 75% chance of a successful outcome, you are still required to find up front costs which are not recoverable if you lose, and in any event can be substantial.

You, having had the misfortune to have been exposed to chemicals, will now find the situation compounded by the denial of basic human rights, which is determined by your ability to pay. We cannot afford this doctrine.

Tony Blair in Chicago April 1999, said ‘we cannot turn our backs on the violation of human rights in other countries if we want to be secure’. However, the action of Blair’s government that allowed the Metropolitan Police to crack down on British demonstrators calling for better human rights in China and Tibet, and the fact that Tony Blair was also the first western leader to go to Moscow and shake hands with the liberator of Chechnya, puts his words into a different light. Did he not mean instead we cannot turn our backs on the violation of human rights as long as it happens somewhere small and weak, with 1970's military technology?

Yet, right under Tony Blair’s nose routine misuse and abuse of statutory powers by the government, civil service, councils, industry and the judiciary themselves continues to prevail. The violation of human rights is happening here in Britain today throughout these monoliths, and as routinely they are swept under the carpet or details of them are gagged.

Do you remember Dr Arpad Pusztai and his warning about genetically modified food? The moral implications of his findings made him go public prior to publication of his data. He was seen on World in Action with the PR in attendance from the institute in which he worked. This was politically incorrect. He was silenced, his data confiscated, cut off from communication and his team disbanded. It seems that being right, telling the truth, maintaining scientific integrity means nothing if you don’t tell politicians what they want to hear. His human rights were violated against.

Another case, at British Biotech, demonstrates the need for clinical trials to be completely independent of the pharmaceutical companies. Dr Andrew Millar, in the best interest of the patients involved, revealed that drug trials were not going as well as the company claimed. The patients human rights were being violated by the company too eager in their drug development. Professor John Hampton in the British Medical Journal (January 2000), suggests that the pharmaceutical industry A must be kept at arm’s length from the development of it’s own drugs’ and that British Biotech showed the industry at it’s worst”.

The integrity of the study was lost and Dr Millar’s integrity grew but at what cost? The Human Rights Act has entrenched a huge change to the balance of power, away from elected representatives and in favour of judges. It incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into our law and effectively allows judges to insist on the rewriting of legislation which they believe is inconsistent with the ECHR. Basically the principles of the right to a fair hearing and innocent until proven guilty are being eroded. The matters are decided by judges free from election and accountable to none. Surely the means by which laws in this country derive their legitimacy is through public consent, conferred by parliament approval.

If we, the people are not listened to and elections cannot alter what judges decide, what is our opinion worth? Elections should ensure that laws reflect popular sentiment, as it is not possible to divorce human rights from politics. Rights are the consequence of political battles.

Here, at the Environmental Law Centre, we hope to provide a vehicle through which individual or community voices can be heard, we shall fight for fair hearings and use the law to it’s full extent and make it work for you.


© Environmental Law Centre
Hollibury House PO Box 267 Southport PR8 1WD UK
Tel: 0870 1657 468 Fax +44 (0)1704 549091 Email: