This document provides a summary of the key themes emerging from the responses to the consultation on "Developments in environmental justice in Scotland" and the argument behind these.
It shows that “environmental justice” is a very wide-ranging term with a foot in civil justice, in criminal justice, and in administrative justice. The definitions given by the respondents sometimes tried to take in the whole spectrum, whilst other respondents focussed on definitions within their own sphere of interest. Based on the responses, it is difficult to come to a definitive answer to the question as to what constitutes an environmental issue in relation to justice.
The recent justice reforms to justice that have a bearing on environmental matters have been welcomed by respondents, most did not think that they have gone far enough.
A majority of the consultation respondents would welcome an environmental court or tribunal. Though a few saw an advantage of such a forum for criminal cases, the majority envisaged a specialised court or tribunal as a means to reducing costs and improving access to justice in civil environmental matters. However, there was no clear consensus on whether such a court or tribunal should deal with criminal or civil cases, whether it should be a specialised sheriff court, a specialist tribunal, or a specialised court within the Court of Session, and within each of those jurisdictions, what types of “environmental” cases should be considered.
As a result of the various reasons outlined above, the Scottish Government does not consider it appropriate to set up an specialised environmental court or tribunal at present.
This should not be read as a downgrading of the importance to the Government of environmental justice. It is committed to improving access to justice in this field as elsewhere in the justice system and will keep the issue of whether there should be an environmental court or tribunal or even a review of environmental justice under review.