By Robert Povall.
Robert is a Campaign Volunteer with GMLC. He is currently studying a GDL at the University of Law and is passionate about making a difference. He wants to become a Barrister, specialising in immigration, civil liberties and human rights.
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Strategic litigation can make significant changes in legislation, policy or procedure. This is achieved by taking carefully-selected cases to court. These cases involve groups of individuals suffering human rights violations or injustices in the welfare system. The objective of this process is to bring attention to deficiencies in the law and instigate change not only for the individuals involved but for everybody facing the same issue.
Many cases have hit the headlines as recently as January 2018.
In March last year, the Government implemented rules limiting access to enhanced Personal Independence Payments to only those suffering with physical disabilities. However, later in the year, the Public Law Project assisted a client in bringing a case before the High Court, in which the Equality and Human Rights Commission and mental health charity Mind were granted permission to intervene in support. The High Court decided that the new rules were unlawful, even labelling them ‘blatantly discriminatory’ to sufferers of mental illness. The Government will not appeal. This verdict will have far-reaching benefits to all sufferers of mental health problems in need of financial aid.
In June, solicitor Rebekah Carrier of Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors represented four single parent families (two of which were homeless) in a court challenge against welfare policy. This rule was that parents needed to work at least 16 hours a week to avoid a cap on certain benefits. Ms. Carrier argued that the cap had a ‘catastrophic effect’ upon vulnerable lone parent families, resulting in single mothers like her clients being forced into homelessness and reliance on food banks. The judge ruled in favour of the claimants and stated the cap caused ‘real misery… to no good purpose.’ Ms. Carrier estimated that the verdict in this case would help around 17,000 families.
Also in June, the UK Supreme Court made a ruling against the Government’s ‘deport first, appeal’ later policy regarding foreign nationals convicted of criminal offences. Allen & Overy acted for the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees who provided evidence described by the Court as ‘most compelling.’ Previously, the Home Office could deport foreign nationals who had served prison sentences before considering any human rights factors, under the Immigration Act 2014. The Supreme Court judged this process unfair as those affected by the rules were disadvantaged, with appeals from abroad never succeeding. Though the process is still ongoing, this verdict is greatly significant in the advancement of immigration procedure and human rights.
Every day, many of us face breaches of rights so often taken for granted. More frustrating is how often the law falls short of protecting those rights, and that is why the Greater Manchester Law Centre is dedicated to making change. Strategic litigation is proving itself to be one of the most invaluable tools in the fight for justice and we want to take advantage of that. Through these cases, real change can come about in the law, enabling GMLC to not only help individual clients with individual issues, but every person in the country in similar circumstances. After all, the law should be there to protect us all, not just a privileged few.