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Database of experts may aid courts
Time:2017.06.06 13:33:00

Judges: Complex environmental cases could be resolved quicker 

Environmental professionals and judges who handle such cases called on leaders to adopt expert testimony or establish an expert database for use in civil public-interest lawsuits, which would speed up hearings.

"It's urgent to build an environmental expert database to improve the quality and efficiency of environmental assessments in our hearings," said Ma Jun, the chief judge responsible for handling environmental disputes at Beijing No 4 Intermediate People's Court.

Ma, speaking at a news conference on Monday, World Environment Day, said only 29 qualified institutes specialize in identifying environmental damage in China and the number is not expected to increase in the near future.

"A database could compensate for the shortage of institutes dealing with environmental assessments, and it would also bring more environmental knowledge to our judges, making hearings more professional," he added.

Ma Yong, an environmental law researcher at the Supreme People's Court legal center, echoed Ma, saying environmental expert testimony can also be used when the courts handle environmental civil public-interest lawsuits.

He said more experts' involvement in making assessment reports will accelerate hearings and judgments. In addition, the individual assessment cost will be lower than that from an institute.

At the same time, a clear and unified standard on calculating compensation for environmental restoration is suggested so it could help the court identify how much money a polluting enterprise should be ordered to pay.

The Environmental Protection Law took effect in January 2015, allowing prosecutors and NGOs to initiate environmental civil public-interest lawsuits. The law was applauded by experts, though it was suggested that authorities strengthen specific regulations.

Wen Zhijun, another Beijing No 4 Intermediate People's Court judge, said Chinese courts accepted 137 environmental civil public-interest cases in 2015 and 2016, but many of them were resolved through mediation or not closed due to impractical and complicated environmental assessments.

In a case the court concluded in April, a Beijing kindergarten agreed to pay an environmental protection association 100,000 yuan ($14,500) to settle a dispute over a running track that contained potentially toxic substances.

In addition, overseeing how money awarded to an NGO in a lawsuit is used has become "a problem", said Zhao Hongmei, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law.

But she confirmed that environmental public-interest lawsuits still need to be heard and given time for examination, adding that solutions of some problems in the law's enforcement will be made after courts handle more environmental cases.

 

Source: Cao Yin | China Daily

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