Letter: Environmental law: policy, pressure and procedure in a growth area

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am writing in relation to Sharon Wallach's report of the recent interview with me, 'Taking a fresh look at the environment' (18 June).

The report contains a number of errors and one fundamental misunderstanding - namely that I and my firm acted for Greenpeace 'against the Government and pollution directorate' in the Thorp/BNFL case. As I explained during my interview, we acted in this matter on behalf of the British Nuclear Fuels Plc as a party directly affected - neither for Greenpeace nor against the Government.

What flows from this misunderstanding, and is reflected throughout the article, is the suggestion that I and my firm act increasingly for environmental groups such as Greenpeace, rather than corporate defendants. This is not so. The point I made was that, whereas several years ago industrial companies would frequently be the plaintiffs in litigation involving environmental groups, they are now just as likely to be defendants, or associated with the defence, in legal proceedings initiated by those same groups. It is not that my clientele has changed, but that the corporate defendants, for whom I continue to act, have experienced something of a reversal in their role.

The suggestion that the assets of Greenpeace were sequestered in 1983 is incorrect. What I said was that an application for that sequestration had been made in the early 1980s. The application was, in fact, unsuccessful and the sanction imposed was a fine.

The comments made in relation to the problems of recovering costs in environmental litigation were in the context of companies defending legally- aided, multi-party civil claims for compensation, an issue quite separate from proceedings involving environmental groups.

Yours faithfully,

PAUL BOWDEN

Freshfields

London, EC4

17 June

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