Your ability to challenge injustice is under threat

Posted on 20 Nov 2020

No one should be above the law, but there are plans underway which would limit our ability to hold those in power to account. If they go ahead, many people will struggle to get justice for themselves or their loved ones.

The UK has a system that ensures whichever party is in government, their actions remain within the law and don’t breach our fundamental rights.

One part of this system is a type of legal challenge known as ‘judicial review’. It gives ordinary people the ability to challenge governments and other public bodies, such as local authorities, if they don’t uphold their duties.

Another is the Human Rights Act. Human rights are about the values we hold dear and the way we treat one another – things like dignity, fairness, equality, tolerance and respect.

The Government is pushing forward controversial plans that would limit our access to judicial review. By doing this, those in power would put themselves and other publicly accountable bodies beyond the reach of the law.

Plans are also underway to water down the Human Rights Act, and in doing so, weaken the basic rights and freedoms we exercise and rely on every day whether we realise it or not.

Why should we be concerned?

Being able to hold governments to account is an important part of British democracy. Everybody should be able to access justice – it’s a lynchpin of the rule of law and it helps keep us all safe.

Judicial review isn’t just important – it works. The Home Secretary’s decision to release John Worboys from prison, despite public outcry given the seriousness and extent of the ‘black cab rapist’s’ crimes, was successfully challenged in court.

It was used to secure the rights of all couples to enter civil partnerships and to stop a controversial building development in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

It protects victims of trafficking and modern slavery and to preserve soldiers’ rights no matter where in the world they are stationed.

And throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, judicial review has been used to protect the rights of disabled people.

Judicial review isn’t broken – it is a well-established and well-functioning part of our democratic system that ordinary people rely on. Attempts to limit its scope would water down our ability to seek justice and undermine values we all hold dear – fairness, accountability and the rule of law.

The Human Rights Act is also an essential tool that empowers us to challenge injustice, and to create a stronger, fairer, more compassionate UK.

It does this by requiring public bodies, including the Government, to respect our rights in everything they do. Where rights are breached, every one of us can use the Human Rights Act to seek justice in British courts. It is the Human Rights Act that brings our rights to life – but the Government wants to change this by weakening the protections the Act offers.

Justice must be accessible to everyone

Liberty is working with a large and diverse coalition of human rights organisations, charities, campaigners, lawyers and grass roots groups to show why the integrity of our justice system must remain intact and – crucially – accessible to everyone.

No one should be above the law, especially those in power. We need to keep justice accessible to everyone and ensure that politicians are held accountable for any mistakes they make.

For society to be fair and just, we must strengthen – not limit – judicial review, and we must keep the Human Rights Act. Our ability to challenge governments in court is essential to keep power in check. We’re doing everything we can to keep that control.

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