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Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice

Jocelyn Cockburn
Jocelyn Cockburn
Partner
Guy Mitchell
Guy Mitchell
Solicitor
Ronan Stewart
Rónán Stewart
Paralegal
Ruth Waters-Falk
Ruth Waters-Falk
Solicitor

Hodge Jones & Allen are at the cutting edge of environmental law. We use human rights, public and criminal law to assist our clients to defend their rights and effect change.

Our Environmental Justice team work on cases where human rights and environmental law overlap – our aim is to protect disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals. We often act for clients who find themselves marginalised, as a result of their disability, age, ethnicity or socio-economic status.

Hodge Jones & Allen_Chambers UK 2023Legal 500 UK - Top Tier Firm-2023

Environmental Litigation & Climate change

Environmental Litigation

The effects of climate change and environmental degradation are accelerating. The consequential environmental damage affects people’s health and their human rights.

We act for individuals, groups and NGOs who want to bring strategic cases against public and private bodies and hold the state to account for its action (or inaction). Judicial Review and civil claims have increasingly become a useful tool for those at the frontline of the fight against climate change and other environmental issues, and we can help you bring creative and impactful cases.

Jocelyn Cockburn and her team acted for Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah during the inquest into the death of her young daughter, Ella. In a ground-breaking global first, air pollution was listed on Ella’s death certificate as a cause of death. We are currently representing other clients affected by the toxic impact of air pollution and are exploring a number of cases which identify the government authorities as failing in their environmental duties.

 

Climate change

There are various ways in which climate change can be tackled. Protesting is one route and our leading Protest Law teamve experience of representing protestors involved in high profile cases, including Colston Four, Extinction Rebellion and the Heathrow 13.

We have a number of leaders in the fields of Human Rights, Environmental Challenges and Protest Law. They include Jocelyn Cockburn and Susie Labinjoh – both ranked in Band 1 for Civil Liberties and Human Rights and are also ranked in Administrative and Public Law in Chambers & Partners. Jocelyn is in the Legal 500 ‘Hall of Fame’. Raj Chada and Mike Schwarz are both ranked in Band 1 in Chambers & Partners as protest law specialists and ranked as leading individuals in Legal 500.

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Human rights and the environment

Human rights will often be relevant in any cases resulting in harm to health. For example, if your children go to school near a busy road, or you swim in or drink polluted water, it may exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma or cause new illness, which may engage human rights.

Research shows that pollution and environmental disasters disproportionately affect children, disabled people, ethnic minorities and people who live in poorer areas. At Hodge Jones & Allen we often act for marginalised groups who have been directly or indirectly discriminated against by legislation, policies or decisions relation to planning and the environment.

Human rights laws can be an important tool in strategic litigation to challenge the Government on issues relating to climate change and Environmental Harm.

In the UK, there is no formally recognised right to a healthy environment. However, a declaration that a piece of legislation is incompatible with human rights law, or that there has been a breach of human rights, can be effective means of holding the Government to account.

If you have concerns environmental issues and the impact on your health or, the health of others call our team to discuss your situation.

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Air pollution

Air pollution is a public health issue for us all. Emissions from cars, agriculture and other sources have led to poor air quality, which is one of the largest environmental risks to public health in the UK.

Air pollution has been described by the World Health Organization as “a public health emergency”. Outdoor air pollution is estimated to be linked to 40,000 early deaths each year, making it the second largest cause of avoidable mortality after smoking. Children and older people are particularly vulnerable, as are people with pre-existing health conditions including asthma. There are legal limits for outdoor air quality and the UK has routinely breached those limits.

For the first time in December 2020, a coroner ruled that air pollution was the cause of the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a nine year old girl. At a press conference following the Inquest, her mother Rosamund reflected on her daughter’s life and the impact the verdict would have on other children around the world. See full press release.

The verdict has potentially wide ranging impacts for people who are exposed to high levels of air pollution and/or who are clinically vulnerable to it. In 2021, the Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report highlighted three areas in which a risk to life persisted and which required action by the authorities. These recommendations are subject to an ongoing campaign by the family to ensure that lessons are learned from Ella’s death and to improve air quality for all children.

The Hodge Jones & Allen team are proud to have taken the legal lead on a hugely important investigation into the impact of air pollution on one young girls life and, sadly, eventual death.We are dedicated to doing all we can to ensure our right to breathe clean air.

If you are worried about the impact of pollution on a member of your family, don’t hesitate to contact our team to discuss your situation – we may be able to help.

 

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Climate change and environmental damage

The budget of public bodies such as the Environment Agency and Local Authorities who are responsible for enforcing environmental standards continues to be cut back. Government continues to breach legal limits on air pollution and pursue unclear policies on meeting its climate targets., Therefore, the role of third parties and NGOs in holding the Government to account in the courts has been increasingly important in exposing environmental damage, preventing projects which are likely to be detrimental to climate or ensuring the legality of legislation and policy.

We have extensive experience in acting for claimants or interested parties in judicial review challenges against the state and other public bodies. We use our breadth of experience in environmental regulation, domestic law and human rights to achieve the best possible results for our clients.

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Featured Case

Ella ADoo-Kissi-Debrah lived with her family, only 25 metres from the highly polluted South Circular Road in London.

Ella Adoo-Kissi-DebrahFor three years between 2010 and 2013 Ella suffered a series of asthma attacks that led to frequent hospitalisation. The first inquest did not investigate the role played by air pollution and this led the family to approach Jocelyn Cockburn to explore whether there was a link between her episodes of ill health and her exposure to air pollution.

A petition signed by 177,363 people called for a second inquest into her death. In 2019, the High Court ordered there should be a second inquest into Ella’s death to investigate whether air pollution had contributed to her death.

On 18 December 2020, following a second inquest, the coroner ruled “Air pollution was a significant contributory factor to both the induction and exacerbation of her asthma” and concluded that “Ella died of asthma contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution”. The Coroner made three recommendations for change which would reduce the risk of future deaths. Ella’s mother, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, is campaigning to bring ‘Ella’s Law’ into effect to learn the lessons from her death. Link to the Ella Roberta Foundation

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