High Court rules that broad interpretation of “environmental information” is required

In breaking news the High Court has this morning delivered judgment in Stephen Minch -v- Commissioner for Environmental Information & Anor , a case which concerned the scope of access to environmental information.

This is the first opportunity the Irish courts have had to review the correct test as to whether information falls within the scope of Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information. The directive gives effect in the EU to provisions of the Aarhus Convention on access to information.

In her judgment, Baker J held that the Commissioner for Environmental Information failed to adopt a purposive interpretation that is required to give effect to the provisions of the Aarhus Convention and its implementation under EU law and that he imposed an overly narrow test of remoteness when characterising the information requested by Mr Minch and the context in which it was created:

I consider in the circumstances that the Commissioner’s approach was too narrow, he failed to adopt the teleological approach that is required to the interpretation and implementation of the Regulations, and imposed an overly narrow test of remoteness in seeking to characterise both the N.B.P. and any report or information within the framework that might inform the Government on the implementation of that plan.

With this judgment the Irish courts have affirmed that laws which give effect to the Aarhus Convention must be interpreted in light of the purpose of the Convention and in the case of access to environmental information a broad approach must be taken to allow for public participation in decisions which affect or may affect the environment.

A copy of the judgment is available here.

FP Logue Solicitors, acted for the Applicant.

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