Is sewage controlled waste?

Thames Water and the Environment Agency have challenged a decision by a district judge that he did not have jurisdiction to determine a preliminary point of law - whether sewage which escapes from a sewerage system is controlled waste.

Thames applied for judicial review after District Judge Carr refused to make a decision on the point at Havering magistrates in September last year. The case was heard at the High Court on 18 May, with the Agency as an interested party.

The issue arose as the result of a prosecution of the company following an incident at Elmers End in early 2003. The point was relevant to 11 alleged offences under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Both the company and the Agency held that the district judge did have the power to make the decision, and the point was upheld by Lord Justice Rose and Mr Justice Crane.

However, the High Court recognised that there was an important point of law at stake. Rather than pass the matter back to the magistrates court, it passed it up to the European Court of Justice.

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