Exemplary damages in environmental litigation

When damages are awarded in civil claims before the courts, their general purpose is to ensure that the plaintiff is compensated for damage he or she has suffered. The aim is not to punish the defendant, since this is treated as a matter for the criminal law. Yet the boundaries between the two systems are not always clear, and a recent decision on a point of law by the High Court illustrates how private litigation in environmental cases can be employed to have strong punitive overtones.

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