Human Rights Act and Judicial Review

I. STAND UP TO POWER

For years, our laws and legal processes have made sure ordinary people can hold the powerful to account when they get it wrong. They help us stand up to people in power. But plans are underway to limit and weaken our ability to do this. Join Liberty’s campaign to protect everyone’s rights and freedoms and keep access to justice open to all.

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

In the UK, our laws and legal processes help people stand up to power and challenge governments and public authorities when they get it wrong.

Judicial Review

Legal processes like ‘judicial review’ give ordinary people the ability to challenge governments and public bodies in court if they get it wrong and don’t uphold their duties.

It’s thanks to judicial review that the Ministry of Defence now owes soldiers a duty of care no matter where in the world they are stationed.

It means all couples can enter civil partnerships.

And it has helped some disabled people defend their rights during the pandemic.

Human Rights Act

Laws like the Human Rights Act mean every one of us can seek justice in British courts if our rights are breached.

Human rights are about values we all hold dear – our right to protest and pray, to think what we like and say what we think, and to keep our private lives private – and it’s the Human Rights Act that brings them to life.

No one above the law

But the Government is trying to weaken these important mechanisms.

It has announced a “review” of our Human Rights Act and is also looking at how the judicial review process works with a view to limiting people’s access to it.

This may sound innocuous enough, but the Government plans could see them place themselves above the law.

This is part of a much more profound change in how governments – both now and in the future – are held to account, which will ultimately restrict our ability to stand up to power.

WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?

Being able to challenge governments and other public bodies is at the heart of our democracy.

Restricting access to justice would effectively let the powerful dodge accountability, undermining fairness and the rule of law.

For 20 years, the Human Rights Act has been used by everyone, from soldiers, to disabled people and journalists.

It has protected our right to protest and pray, to think what we like and say what we think, and to keep our private lives private.

It protects all of us, all the time. But if we are unable to enforce our rights, they will become meaningless.

WHAT CAN I DO?

For society to be fair and just, we must strengthen – not limit – judicial review, and we must keep the Human Rights Act intact and accessible to all.

We must not lose our ability to challenge injustice and stand up to power.

Join our campaign to protect our rights and access to justice.

How I stood up to power

For years, our laws and legal processes have made sure people in the UK can challenge governments and public bodies when they get it wrong.

Here are just a handful of stories of ordinary people standing up to power.

My six-year-old son, Ian, loves his school and has lots of friends – but without judicial review, he might not be getting any schooling at all.

Ian has autism. As his mum, I knew he’d need extra help to make the transition from nursery to school – but the school didn’t have the resources to meet his needs.

Ian couldn’t cope with the demands of the classroom without support. He found school overwhelming and his autistic behaviours escalated.

The head teacher restricted him to only attending for an hour a day.

With Ian’s whole education at risk, I began legal proceedings. After that, Ian was given the extra support he needs from the Education Authority and is now happy and settled at school.

Without judicial review, my bright and sporty daughter would have been forced to drop out of school and would not now be in her final year of university, looking forward to her future.

Emma was 12 when she developed narcolepsy, a serious medical condition, which completely disrupted her studies and her life.

The usual drugs for treating narcolepsy didn’t help in her case and NHS England repeatedly refused our requests for an alternate drug recommended by her medical consultant.

Five years later, with her A-levels looming, and all her plans for university at risk, Emma became depressed and isolated from her friends.

As a last resort, we brought a legal challenge against NHS England, where the judge ruled they had misapplied the law. My daughter did in fact meet the criteria for the alternative treatment, and with her exams in a matter of weeks, she should start it straight away.

The effect was almost immediate. Emma’s condition is now well-controlled, and she has been able to get on with her life.

My teenage daughter Lauryn has autism and severe learning difficulties. She loves to go for long walks and needs routine and structure to keep her contented and calm.

When lockdown happened, her school closed and all the additional support she was used to having at school, and from disability social workers, instantly stopped.

Lauryn couldn’t cope being stuck home all day. She missed doing the things she enjoyed. Without her routines, she became uncontrollable – a danger to herself and those of us trying to keep her safe.

Our only option was to agree for Lauryn to be heavily medicated, but we knew what she really needed was to be in school and have respite support.

It was heartbreaking, but the Education Authority and Health Trust refused to take action.

As nothing else had worked we started legal action, reminding them they have a duty to act in children’s best interests.

Lauryn is now back at school and our challenge to access respite goes on.

It will be a long time before she fully recovers from all the disruption she faced, but without judicial review my daughter could never have started to return to the kind of routine that she needs.

Joe Ousalice
Joe Ousalice

After 18 years I was kicked out of the Navy and my medals were stripped from me because of my sexuality.

When I started legal action against the Ministry of Defence for violating my human rights, they gave my medals back and have promised to introduce a policy to return medals to all LGBT veterans dismissed in similar circumstances.

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