“A great advocate with a fierce intellect”
“Her client skills are phenomenal; she is very calm, focused and knowledgeable, and instantly instils confidence.”
Chambers & Partners 2014
Justine Thornton QC specialises in environmental and planning law and related aspects of international; EU; public; regulatory and commercial law. She is rated by Chambers UK as “a great advocate with a fierce intellect”.
She is a Visiting Professor at University College London. Her experience covers a broad range of high profile projects including HS2 and Hinkley Point C. A particular feature of Justine’s practice is complex environmental group actions, often with cross border elements. She appeared in the longest environmental trial in the UK, to date over environmental damage in Colombia. The trial lasted 5 months and was conducted via simultaneous Spanish translation. Justine also acted in the biggest group action claim arising out of an oil spill in Nigeria (settled for £55 million).
Justine is Case Law Editor of the Journal of Environmental Law. Her research publications include the prestigious Law Quarterly Review.
Public Law Challenges
Justine regularly appears as an advocate in the Administrative Court and Court of Appeal. She acts for both Claimants and Defendants. Her clients include companies, public authorities, environmental groups and individuals. Her experience includes:
- Court of Appeal: environmental assessment challenge. Instructed by the Secretary of State (R(Gilbert) v Secretary of State  EWCA Civ 314).
- Court of Appeal: planning inquiry, expert evidence and reasons. Instructed by the Secretary of State (Georgiou v Secretary of State  LLR 506).
- Court of Appeal: environmental assessment; reasons. Instructed by the Claimant (R (Burridge) v Breckland District Council  EWCA Civ 228).
- Court of Appeal: gypsies and green belt development. Instructed by the Claimant (Doran v Secretary of State  EWCA Civ 1798).
- Court of Appeal: proper approach to section 66 of the Planning and Listed Buildings Act. Junior to Gordon Nardell QC. Instructed by developer wind farm company (Barnwell Manor v East Northamptonshire DC & Secretary of State  EWCA Civ 137).
- Administrative Court: novel point of law on standing to bring a statutory challenge. Instructed by the Secretary of State (JB Trustees v Sec of State  JPL 658).
- Administrative Court: planning inquiry, status of a written ministerial statement and natural justice. Instructed by the Secretary of State (Copas v Secretary of State  JPL 83).
- Administrative Court: high profile challenge to an incinerator; errors in interpretation of a waste plan. Instructed by the Claimant (R(Khan) v Sutton LBC  EWHC 3663).
- Administrative Court: natural justice challenge to noise evidence. Instructed by the Secretary of State ( R(Westminster v Sec of State  EWHC 1248)
- Upper Tribunal: acting for the Department of Energy and Climate Change in relation to disclosure of sensitive information including Cabinet correspondence.
- Administrative Court: heritage assets and planning judgment. Instructed by the Secretary of State (Holland v Secretary of State  EWHC 566).
- Administrative Court: challenge to the UK’s implementation of the Waste Directive. Instructed by the Secretary of State and Welsh Government. Junior to Clive Lewis QC (R(UK Recyclate Ltd) v Sec of State  EWHC 425 (Admin))
- Administrative Court: challenge to domestic allocation of fishing quotas under the Common Fisheries Policy: legitimate expectation, peaceful enjoyment of possessions. Instructed by the Marine Management Organisation (UK Association of Fish Producers v Sec of State and MMO  EWHC 1959 (Admin))
- Administrative Court: environmental assessment and reasonable foreseeability. Instructed by the Secretary of State (Commercial Estates Group Ltd v Sec of State  EWHC 3089 (Admin))
- Administrative Court: permitted development, planning permission, telecommunications. Instructed by the Secretary of State (Infocus Public Networks Limited v Secretary of State  EWHC 4622 (Admin)).
Major Inquiry and Parliamentary Work
Justine’s experience ranges from major inquiries to relatively informal public examinations. Her experience includes:
- Stansted Airport Runway: Justine was assigned to the Department for Transport to help the Department prepare for a major inquiry into an additional runway at Stansted Airport, before the proposal was aborted. She spent 1 – 2 days a week working for the Department over a period of approximately 15 months.
- New Nuclear Power Station at Hinkley Point C: Justine was instructed by the energy company EDF on environmental matters in its preparation for the development consent hearings into the company’s proposal for a new nuclear power station. She spent approximately 1 day a week at EDF’s offices for a period of approximately a year
- South West Water Water Resources Management Inquiry: Justine was instructed by the Environment Agency for the first ever inquiry into a water company’s water resources management plan. The inquiry lasted approximately 4 weeks
- United Utilities’ discharge consents appeal: Justine was instructed by the water and sewerage company United Utilities to appear for the company at a public inquiry into test case appeals against the imposition of conditions on its discharge consents. The inquiry lasted three weeks
- North Yorkshire Waste and Minerals plan: Justine was instructed by North Yorkshire County Council to represent the Council at a public examination into its development plan. Justine advised on preparation for 6 – 8 months prior to the examination.
- Suffolk Coastal Core Strategy Examination: Justine appeared for local residents at the examination.
- United Utilities’ discharge consents appeal (No 2): Justine was instructed by United Utilities to appear for the company at a further public inquiry into further test case appeals against the imposition of conditions on its discharge consents. The inquiry lasted three to four weeks and was prepared over an 18month period.
- Surrey County Council Waste Plan: Justine was instructed by developers to protect their interests at a public examination into the Surrey Council Waste Plan.
- Crossrail Justine appeared before the House of Commons Select Committee to present petitions in relation to Crossrail
- HS2 Justine appeared before the House of Commons Select Committee to present a petition in relation to HS2
Group Actions and Civil Litigation for Environmental Damage
Justine regularly appears in complex group actions for environmental damage in the UK and abroad. She has advised in over 30 such cases. She often works in large teams with lawyers, experts and lay witnesses.
She has recently finished a highly complex four month trial in the Technology and Construction Court. The case involved vulnerable witnesses. Justine was responsible for key areas of the case. She examined and cross examined Spanish speaking expert witnesses, via simultaneous translation. She made closing submissions in relation to the vulnerable witnesses and the framework through which the Court should assess their evidence. The case was conducted using document management software (Opus2 Magnum Cloud technology).
Other complex and novel litigation she has been instructed in relates to deposits of waste (breach of statutory duty; negligence and nuisance); oil spill (public nuisance); flooding (nuisance and negligence); escape of sewage (nuisance and negligence); inhalation of fumes (public nuisance and personal injury)
Justine regularly advises in relation to habitats; waste; environmental impact assessment, strategic environmental impact assessment, contaminated land; water resources, water pollution, transfrontier shipment of waste
Justine appears in the First Tier and Upper Tribunal in relation to disclosure of environmental information.
Chambers & Partners has named Justine in the Chambers 100, a list of the top 100 juniors practising at the Bar across all practice areas.
Justine is highly recommended as a leading junior for her Environmental expertise by both Chambers & Partners and Legal 500.
“Excellent with clients even when faced with a large number of individual claimants in the context of a group action.” Legal 500 2015
“A team player, who is quick to grasp the key points and assimilate complex and dense material” Legal 500 2015
“She gets very complex sets of facts over to the Judge very effectively” “A safe pair of hands who gives pragmatic advice” Chambers and Partners 2015
“Her client skills are phenomenal; she is very calm, focused and knowledgeable, and instantly instils confidence.” “A great advocate with a fierce intellect.” Chambers & Partners 2014
“Extremely bright, hardworking, and knowledgeable” Legal 500 2013
Sources describe Justine Thornton as “exceptional” in terms of her “clarity of advice” and also single her out for her “excellent grasp of legal and tactical issues” Chambers & Partners 2012
“one of the finest juniors in the field…shows considerable attention to detail, commitment to the cause and great knowledge” Chambers & Partners 2011