Human Rights Act, ECHR and Government accountability

To protect our rights, we must resist this Government’s attack on accountability

Posted on 30 Jul 2021

In a democratic society people must be able to hold public authorities accountable for their actions. But the Government is attempting to put itself – and all future governments – beyond the reach of the law, silencing people in the process.

Liberty has this week called out the Government’s agenda. Writing in the Times, Liberty Director Gracie Bradley pieced together the many parts of the Government’s attack on accountability:

“While the coronavirus pandemic raged, the government continued working on a project to remove or weaken safeguards on how power is held to account. The rate at which our freedoms are being hollowed out is alarming.

“Earlier this year, the government created a panel to review the Human Rights Act —with a view to weakening it.

“Just two weeks ago, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was backed by the majority of MPs, who did so knowing it will put at greater risk some of the most marginalised communities in the UK.

“The Electoral Integrity Bill will enshrine voter ID in law, potentially disenfranchising the millions of people in the UK who do not have photo ID.

“Last week, the Home Office proposed to amend the Official Secrets Act, which could mean journalists are treated as spies for uncovering and publishing unauthorised information — regardless of press freedom or public interest.

“This is the context in which the Judicial Review Bill must be seen: in courts, in parliament and on the streets, this government is dismantling the tools we use to hold it to account.”

On Tuesday, Liberty’s Head of Legal Casework, Louise Whitfield, scrutinised the Government’s proposed Judicial Review and Courts Bill, intended to be the first step in eroding access to judicial review, in the Law Society Gazette:

“Since this Government came into power it has been working on plans to change the relationship between the Government and the courts, partly by altering the ways the public can use laws like the Human Rights Act, and legal mechanisms like judicial review.

“Rather than the outright attack on accessing judicial review that many feared, the Judicial Review Bill focuses mainly on reducing its use in immigration cases. But this should still be of concern, and not only for migrants and refugees or those working to defend their rights. We fear that this attack on the most marginalised in our society is the first step in removing these rights for other groups. This move marks the first step in chipping away at judicial review for everyone.

“Far from what the Government would have us believe, judicial review is not broken – it is a well-established and well-functioning part of our democracy, and any limitations on how it works would water down our ability to seek justice. Limiting judicial review also undermines values we all hold dear – values of fairness, accountability, and the rule of law.”

This is a democratic crisis. The first step to stopping this Government from dismantling the tools we use to stand up to power, is to see this agenda and call it out. The next is to come together and force the Government to change direction.

It’s time for all of us to stand up to power and send a message that the Government must not become untouchable. Join the campaign to save your rights. Sign the petition to save our legal safeguards.

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