Over the last 20 years John has acquired considerable experience in criminal and civil cases involving environmental work – although it is in the civil courts that John has been appearing in more recently.
Barr v. Biffa  EWHC 1003 (TCC)was a group litigation case of odour nuisance from a landfill with 152 Claimants. John did the legal advocacy for the Claimant which involved a detailed examination of the regulatory scheme in both English and EC legislation as the Defendant raised the defence of statutory authority. They also argued that compliance with the regulatory scheme was a “reasonable use” of land for the law of nuisance. D’s statutory authority argument was rejected but they succeeded on “reasonable use.” The decision was successfully appealed.
Dobson v. Thames Water  EWHC 3253 (TCC)was a group litigation nuisance case concerning odour and mosquitoes with over 1300 Claimants. John dealt with the mosquito case, cross-examining expert witnesses and doing the opening and closing speeches on them. He was also involved in the detailed negligence claim in respect of the design and operation of the sewage treatment works and drafted the particulars of negligence. In 2011 he also conducted a plea in mitigation in Barry Magistrates’ Court in respect of a prosecution under the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations.
In terms of John’s criminal court experience. he practised criminal law, almost exclusively, from 1983 to 1988 both prosecuting and defending. His criminal environmental experience in the main has been dealing with guilty pleas. He has done such pleas in the Crown and Magistrates’ Court in respect of water pollution, waste management and breach of abatement notice matters. He has also done contempt of court proceedings in civil litigation in respect of breach of an undertaking in relation to noise.
He was junior counsel in the Organophosphate Litigation. This litigation was concerned with farmers and others alleging illness caused by low-level exposure to pesticides. There was considerable toxicological material as to the effects of organophosphate chemicals like diazinon on the nervous system. There was neurological evidence and reports from a neuropsychologist. John conducted some of the cases before the Queen’s Bench Master and Morland J. The claims failed on attribution in that it could not be shown that prolonged or low level exposure to organophosphates causes physical or mental illness.
Following the Camelford water poisoning incident John was instructed to bring a private prosecution against the water company.
He acted for the Mayor of London in a challenge to the Mayor’s Waste Management Strategy – R (on the app. of West London Waste Authority v. Mayor of London  EWHC 757 (Admin).
John’s caseload will typically include drainage concerns of developers of housing estates, sewerage problems, statutory nuisance, contaminated land, nature conservation, actions criminal or civil liability arising from waste management operations, noise or pollution from industrial sites and issues over fishing rights. He also advises industry on potential UK or EEC legislation and acts for local authorities.
John has dealt with cases concerning contamination from petrol stations and domestic oil installations. In a recent claim oil from a central heating system escaped and contaminated the ground under the house and next door properties. The claim was made against those responsible for maintaining the system. The claim settled.
As the author of Water and Drainage Law, John has advised on numerous cases concerning drainage rights at common law and under legislation. In particular he has advised developers as to the rights they have to drain from their sites, the extent of those rights and liability for discharging excessive flows. He has also advised landowners adversely affected by drainage discharges.
John has advised landowners on fishing rights in waters on their land. He has acted for fishing clubs in relation to pollution of their fisheries. He has traced rights in coastal waters from the 11th century and considered the particular grants made to Welsh marcher lords.
Flood Defence/Land Drainage
John has considerable experience in this area of law. He has advised developers on the land drainage aspects of their proposed developments and rights to drain land into watercourses. He has also advised on rights where land drainage is obstructed and the legal consequences where river banks are eroded by boat wash or by natural flows.
He has acted for people affected by flooding and advised on the liability of developers and local authorities for flood damage. He has also dealt with issues under drainage byelaws.
In 2011 he acted for a farmer seeking to enforce duties under a local Act for the maintenance of sea defences. He has advised on the new flood protection regime and the policy of “managed retreat.” In particular he considers that where flood defences are allowed to fail, those whose land is flooded may be able to obtain compensation under the Human Rights Convention.
Environmental claims fall under Article 8 or Article 1 of Protocol 1 to the Human Rights Convention. John has advised landowners on the effect of the Convention on their property rights. He has also – in Dobson v. Thames Water – argued on the Article 8 rights of those who are affected by a nuisance but have no legal interest in the property concerned.
Private and public rights of navigation can raise difficult issues in the interpretation of private Acts and proof of the exercise of such rights. John has advised on the existence and extent of navigation rights, charges for use of navigations, mooring rights and pollution from vessels.
Reservoirs and Dams
John acted for a Claimant whose fish farm was adversely affected by flows from a dam. The case settled. He has advised on reservoir safety issues and common law right to impound flows in a watercourse.
John has extensive experience in dealing with all issues relating to sewers from trade effluent discharges to construction and maintenance of sewers. He has advised developers on rights to connect to sewers and the vexed problem of sewerage undertakers’ rights to restrict development near their sewers.
John has written about, lectured on and advised on waste law and acted in waste management cases for over twenty years. He has dealt with criminal cases under the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations, illegal deposits of waste and waste packaging. He has advised industry and others on the application of waste management law, exemptions from environmental permitting and liability for waste dumped on another’s land.
The right to abstract water is now constrained by detailed legislation and catchment management planning. John has experience in water abstraction inquiries and advising on common law rights to abstract water. He has also advised on drought permits.
John has advised on water infrastructure issues such as rights of connection, leaks from water pipes and water charges. He has acted for water undertakers/residents in drinking water quality cases. He has also advised on private water supplies, rights to such a supply and the quality of water used.