Justine Thornton

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Justine Thornton is an environmental lawyer. She is married to UK Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband.


Thornton was called to the Bar in 1994. She is a member of Thirty Nine Essex Street Chambers in London. Her areas of specialism are:

  • Environmental & Planning
  • Administrative Law
  • Health & Safety
  • Utilities and Energy
  • Central & Local Government
  • Access to Information

Advised EDF Energy on Hinkley nuclear deal

In March 2013 Thornton and colleague Stephen Tromans QC were part of the team advising EdF Energy as it sought to win planning consent for a new Hinkley Point nuclear reactor. According to a statement on 39 Essex Street's website:

The Secretary of State on 19 March announced approval of the application by EFD [sic] Energy for construction of the first new nuclear power station in the UK for over 25 years. The application was made under the Planning Act 2008 and is for a 3,260 MW station comprising two European Pressurised reactors. The order also covers associated development and compulsory acquisition.

The statement also said that Thornton's colleague Christiaan Zwart acted for the Environment Agency as a statutory consultee, and that Stephen Tromans QC and Zack Simons had acted for the Nuclear Industry Association in 2011 in successfully resisting a legal challenge to the decision to justify the building of the EPR type reactor. [1]

A spokesman for Mr Miliband told The Telegraph newspaper:

Justine Thornton advised on compliance with environmental legislation in connection to the grant of development consent for Hinkley Point, which was received in March 2013. Under the 'cab-rank rule', barristers in the UK are obliged to represent any client requesting their professional services. [2]

Class action against Shell Nigeria

In May 2013 Thornton was instructed by Leigh Day solicitors in a class action against Shell Nigeria for two oil spills in 2008 which are alleged to have caused widespread damage in the Niger Delta.  Justine joins the team alongside Richard Hermer QC and Jonathan Glasson QC from Matrix Chambers acting for approximately 13,000 clients based in Nigeria. Shell has admitted liability but disputes the extent of the damage and the amount of compensation payable.


  • Junior Counsel to the Crown. Member of the Attorney General's C Panel
  • Advocate for the Welsh Assembly Government (Junior Counsel Panel)
  • Case Law Editor for Journal of Environmental Law
  • Co-convenor of UKELA Working Party on Environmental Litigation: 2000 -2008
  • Government Adviser on environment and biotechnology: 1999-2005
  • Visiting Lecturer at the Academy of European Law, Trier, Germany: 1998-1999 [3]


Clients include: Defra, Environment Agency, Welsh Assembly Government, the Marine Management Organisation, the Department for Transport; the Department for Communities and Local Government, EDF Energy Veolia United Utilities, Bath & North East Somerset Council action groups and individuals[3]



  • Inns of Court School of Law. BVC: 1992-1993
  • MA Hons (2:1) International law (Class I) E.C. law (Class I), Cambridge University: 1989-1992[3]


  • General Editor of Thomson Reuters Encyclopaedia of Environmental Law
  • Case Law Editor of the Journal of Environmental Law Oxford University Press
  • Environmental Law (First and Second editions) Sweet & Maxwell 2009
  • Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004: A Guide to the New Law Law Society 2005[3]

Contact, Resources and Notes


Website: http://www.39essex.com/members/profile.php?id=55



  1. News, Thirty Nine Essex Street website statement, 19 March 2013, acc 23 October 2013
  2. Christopher Hope, Ed Miliband's wife advised EdF on Hinkley Point nuclear deal, 22 October 2013, acc same day
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Justine Thornton CV, 39 Essex Street, acc 23 October 2013