Ratione et Consilio: Magistrates and Environmental Law

Moran, Terence (1995) Ratione et Consilio: Magistrates and Environmental Law. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Ratione et Cons/i/o (by reason and sound judgement) is the motto of the Magistrates' Association. As an approach to the resolution of environmental cases this ought to be a satisfactory basis. However the reality is much more complex. By a combination of history, policy and jurisprudence the magistrates' courts find themselves dealing with cases which do not easily fit within their normal conceptual model of the criminal law.
This study, by examining; the origins of the modern office of magistrate, the origins of environmental law, the methods of environmental regulators, the theory behind the law in this area and the attitudes of magistrates, identifies and explores a number of key influencing factors.
The common opinion of the regulators, that magistrates' courts fail to hand out sufficiently harsh deterrent sentences, is, it is proposed, based on a flawed view. It is based on a view which sees regulators and the courts as totally separate rather than, as they are, part of an overall regulatory system. They (the regulators) distance themselves from the perceived weak point in the regulatory system (the court) and thus removed are able to point to the deficiencies in the courts rather than to the processes at work within the entire system.
The study finds that magistrates do appear interested in environmental matters but are inevitably handicapped when dealing with such things. This because of a lack of historical involvement, allied to a lack of training. Thus this study suggests that they resort to an approach of their own making. An approach which appears to search for a moral thsead within the cases they try and, if found or implied, then marks the case as serious or not. They do not, cannot, share the same view as the regulatory agencies about matters before them without there being a change within the overall regulatory system. Thus the schism between regulators and courts will remain.
This study offers an insight into the magistrates' court as an environmental tribunal. It challenges some of the standard assumptions in this area of the law and contributes to the ongoing debate.

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