Ofgem (Gas & Electricity Markets Authority) v. Infinis)  EWCA Civ 70, Court of Appeal 13 Feburary 2013 read judgment, on appeal from decision of Lindblom J Read judgment and my previous post
This decision upholding an award of damages for a claim under Article 1 Protocol 1 (right to possessions) may seem rather straightforward to a non-lawyer. Infinis lost out on some subsidies because the regulator misunderstood a complex legal document. It could not claim those subsidies any more, so it claimed and got damages from the regulator. But the relatively novel thing is that English law does not generally allow claims for damage caused by unlawful action by the state. And yet the Court of Appeal found it easy to dismiss the regulator’s appeal on this point.
Infinis Energy Holdings Ltd v HM Treasury and Anor  EWCA Civ 1030 – read judgment
In July 2015 the government announced that it was removing a subsidy for renewable energy. Its decision in fact was to take away the exemption that renewable source electricity enjoyed from a tax known as the climate change levy. We have covered previous episodes in the renewables saga on the UKHRB in various posts.
The appellant, the largest landfill gas operator in the UK and one of the leading onshore wind generators, challenged the government’s removal of the subsidy on the basis of the EU law principles of foreseeability, legal certainty, the protection of legitimate expectations or proportionality. At first instance the judge upheld the Secretary of State’s decision, and the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal against this finding.
Legal and Factual Background
The subsidy took the form of an exemption for renewable source electricity (RSE) such as that provided by the appellant’s company, from the climate change levy (CCL). (The judgment is replete with these acronyms so it’s worth getting to grips with them before reading.)
Jay J, the judge at first instance, summarised the government’s reasons for removing the exemption. The government wanted to move away from a system of indirect support to one of direct support, the latter being more efficient and cost-effective. The exemption, it was said, benefited foreign generators and there were incentives and support in place that would continue to support domestic generators of renewable energy. The government had considered the impact of this decision on companies such as Infinis, but it was decided that it was outweighed by the public interest. Continue reading →
Breyer Group plc and others v Department of Energy and Climate Change  EWHC 2257 (QB) – Coulson J read judgment
This is an important judgment on governmental liability for a rather shabby retrospective change of the rules about subsidies for photovoltaic schemes. The Court of Appeal had decided in 2012 that the changes were unlawful: see judgment and my post here. The question in Breyer was whether businesses could obtain damages under A1P1 arising out of the Secretary of State’s decision. Though the judgment proceeds on a number of assumed facts, some critical findings of law were in favour of the businesses.
Tchenguiz v. Director of the Serious Fraud Office  EWCA Civ 472, 15 April 2014 – read judgment
This judgment is a neat illustration of how important it is to keep the concepts of public law and private law unlawfulness separate – they do not necessarily have the same legal consequences.
It arose thus. The Tchenguiz brothers are high-profile businessmen, and they did not take kindly to being arrested and bailed on charges of fraud at the behest of the SFO. They sought judicial review of the search and arrest warrants. In due course, the Divisional Court ( EWHC 2254 (Admin)) held that the SFO had made material non-disclosure and factual misrepresentations to the judge which vitiated the grant of the warrants, and the brothers have brought a substantial follow-on claim for damages – £300 million according to another recent judgement here.
So the Tchenguiz brothers have established unlawfulness, but, as we shall see, this does not automatically entitles them to damages.
Updated| R (Infinis) v. Ofgem & Non-Fossil Purchasing Agency Limited, Interested Party  EWHC 1873 (Admin) Lindblom J, 10 August 2011 Read judgment
In a recent post, I suggested that successful claims under Article 1 Protocol 1 (the human right to peaceful enjoyment of property) faced all sorts of difficulties, hence the particular interest of that decision in Thomas which bucked the trend. Rash words at the end of a busy legal term: hard on the heels of that judgment of the Court of Appeal, there comes this further example of an A1P1 claim succeeding in the environmental context.
This time, the claim arose as a result of a judicial review, where the judge decided that the regulator had come to an unlawful decision, and hence that unlawfulness gave rise to a damages claim against the regulator.
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