UK: Environmental lawyer fined £5,000 for leaking Supreme Court judgment

UK: Environmental lawyer fined £5,000 for leaking Supreme Court judgment

Tim Crosland

An environmental lawyer has been fined £5,000 after being found in contempt for leaking the UK Supreme Court’s judgment in a case concerning the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

Tim Crosland has become the first person to ever be tried and found in contempt by the Supreme Court.

Mr Crosland was involved in the case, heard by the Supreme Court in October 2020, as legal representative for Plan B Earth, a climate litigation NGO and registered charity which he co-founded and co-directs.

Plan B Earth joined the case, launched by Friends of the Earth, as a respondent, arguing that the expansion of Heathrow breached the UK’s obligations under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The case was ultimately unsuccessful and the Supreme Court ruled the expansion of Heathrow was not unlawful.

In December 2020, in accordance with its usual practice, the Supreme Court circulated its draft judgment in the case under strict embargo to the parties and their legal representatives, including Mr Crosland.

The embargoed judgment came with a warning that any breach of it could be treated as contempt of court.

On 15 December, the day before the final judgment was announced, Mr Crosland, an outspoken opponent of the expansion of Heathrow, issued a public statement disclosing the Supreme Court’s decision breaching the embargo.

In his statement, Mr Crosland said that he had deliberately breached the embargo as an act of civil disobedience in the knowledge that it would be treated as contempt of court and that he was ready to face the consequences.

At the request of the Supreme Court, Attorney General Michael Ellis QC considered whether to initiate contempt proceedings against Mr Crosland. In February, the Attorney General decided that proceedings should be brought against Mr Crosland.

The Supreme Court today found Mr Crosland in contempt of court, ruling that there is “no such thing as a justifiable contempt of court”, and fined him £5,000.

In a statement, Mr Crosland said: “Exposing the government’s climate hypocrisy and the court’s complicity has resulted in my £5,000 fine. Breaching the Paris Agreement is a death sentence for the young people of this country and for so many in the Global South.”

The Attorney General said: “Tim Crosland, a lawyer and a director of a registered charity, was wrong to have acted in contempt. His actions undermined our legal process and he acted in full knowledge of the likely consequences. It is right that the Supreme Court agreed and held him accountable for his actions.”

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