Five year old boy takes fight for clean air to the Supreme Court

Lawyers acting for Mathew Richards, a young boy whose serious health condition is being made worse by pollution from a landfill site, have launched an urgent appeal to the Supreme Court.

This Monday (17th January 2022) the Court of Appeal published its judgment in a human rights case concerning the impact of emissions from Walleys Quarry landfill site in Silverdale, Staffordshire. In September, the High Court had found that the Environment Agency was not doing enough to protect Mathew’s right to life. The Environment Agency did not appeal against the finding that Mathew’s life was at risk, instead taking issue with the High Court’s declaration that the Environment Agency had an obligation to lower pollution levels in line with recommendations from Public Health England.

The Court of Appeal this week allowed the Environment Agency’s appeal, finding that despite the continuing risk to Mathew’s health, the Court should not require the Environment Agency to do more. The judgment comes at a time when pollution levels remain dangerously high. During the week commencing 10 January, the Agency’s own monitoring showed  levels regularly exceeded the safe levels prescribed by the World Health Organisation, as much of 53% of the time in some locations.

Mathew has now asked the Supreme Court  to decide whether the Court of Appeal’s approach is correct. The appeal argues the Court of Appeal’s approach does not properly protect Mathew’s human rights, and leaves him and others affected by pollution without any mechanism for forcing action, even where the pollution is life threatening.

Mathew’s legal team have asked that the Supreme Court considers the application for permission to appeal within 7 days. In support of this request, it has placed before the Supreme Court a medical report from two renowned consultant respiratory paediatricians, Dr Martin Samuels and Dr Ian Sinha, which concludes that there remains a real and immediate risk to Mathew’s life from emissions from the landfill.

Mathew’s mother, Rebecca Currie, has said:

“I was heartbroken at the Court of Appeal decision and do not understand why the courts cannot tell the Environment Agency to stop these poisonous gases from coming into our homes. I hope the Supreme Court realises just how awful the situation is and deals with the appeal as soon as possible. We still hope that the Court will step in to make sure that the pollution which blights our village is at long last sorted. The High Court told the Environment Agency to do more, and our MP has asked questions in parliament about why this situation is allowed to continue. My community cannot believe that our calls for action are being ignored. I hope the Supreme Court will recognise how important this issue is, not just for Mathew but for my community and for anyone concerned about pollution. We only want clean air for our children to breathe.”

Rebekah Carrier of Hopkin Murray Beskine, Mathew’s solicitor, has said:

” We have filed this appeal as fast as possible because the pollution in Silverdale continues and Mathew’s health remains compromised. We hope that the Supreme Court considers it as quickly as possible. We think that the Court of Appeal’s judgment defers too much to the Environment Agency’s regulatory judgment and does not adequately protect Mathew’s human rights. The appeal is clearly of fundamental importance to Mathew and the people of Silverdale. However, we think it also raises broader issues about the human rights obligations of regulators and other public bodies who are entrusted with keeping the public safe from harmful activities.”

Published On: 21/01/2022|
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