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Equalities body will be a “discriminators charter”

21/7/2006

HUMAN RIGHTS lawyers believe the governments’ new equalities body will lead to a huge fall in legal cases for victims of discrimination.

Peter Herbert
Peter Herbert: CEHR could become 'a charter for employers to act in a discriminatory way.'

The Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR), which comes into effect next year, with an inbuilt bias against taking court cases.

They are fears that the new super-equalities body will fail those who are most in need of help.

Concern is so high that some legal eagles believe it will amount to a ‘discriminators charter.’

Two weeks ago anti-racist campaigners blasted the recent record of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) for drastically reducing the number of legal cases it took on behalf of race crime victims.

There was strong criticism for the CRE’s chair Trevor Phillips, who had earlier boasted about saving taxpayers money by slashing the number of full legal cases to just one.

Phillips is now putting himself forward as a candidate to be the CEHR chairman when it starts work in January, covering the areas of gender, disabilities, age, sexual orientation, religion and human rights.

litigants

Peter Herbert spokesperson on behalf of Society of Black Lawyers, part-time judge and member of the Metropolitan Police Authority said: ‘The enforceability and strength of anti-discrimination legislation not only on grounds of race but relating to all forms of discrimination depends upon the legal powers of individuals to challenge the unlawful actions of employers and individuals.

Karen Chouhan:
Karen Chouhan: said the new CEHR chair should spell out their committment to supporting the victims of discrimination.

‘If claimants do not have access to legal aid, which they have never had and the new CEHR abdicates all responsibility for representation, save for a handful of cases, then claimants will effectively be on their own.

'It is well known that un-represented litigants in person succeed in only less than 10 % of cases.

‘The result will be that the creation of the CEHR will be a charter for employers and institutions to act in a racist and discriminatory way, unchallenged save for the paper tiger represented by the CEHR.

‘The CEHR will be further undermined by a chair who has successfully wound down the activities of the CRE and repeatedly shown that he is accountable not to black communities but to the agenda of 10 Downing Street.’

exposed

Jane Deighton, partner in Deighton Guedalla Solicitors said:
‘I have represented applicants under the RRA since it came into being. The taking of individual cases is a crucial step towards eradicating race discrimination.

‘Successful cases make a difference not just to the applicant but also to others. This is for all sorts of reasons. The process is often educative to the applicant and the institution or individual complained about, tribunals can make recommendations, the press cover the cases, and where the law is exposed as needing reform there may be legislative changes.

‘The right of access to tribunals and courts is empowering to individuals and can operate as a check on the practice of employers. Further cases educate and ground policy makers in the reality of discrimination and the legal process.

‘It can be fantastically stressful taking cases. Part of the stress is lack of funding. Public funding in employment cases is limited to advice and does not extend to representative. It is also limited to the very poor.

‘The less statutory bodies fund cases, the fewer cases will be taken by applicants who believe they have been discriminated against, and yet more incidents of discrimination will carry on unchecked.’

Karen Chouhan, a trustee of The 1990 Trust, added: ‘We demand that whoever becomes the new CEHR chair should set out their commitment to legally supporting the victims of discrimination.

‘In particular we need an explaination of how individual and group [class action] cases will be supported by the CEHR. This means making available the resources for case work, and ensuring a legal team able to deliver.’

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Resources:

Teeth and their use

Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society: One year On

The Zahid Mubarek Inquiry

pdf Dept. for Communities & Local Government Citizenship Survey

Responses to the Equalities Review Interim Report

The 1990 Trust Response to The Equalities Review Interim Report

Equalities Review Interim Report Briefing – Addressing Race Equality

pdf Our Rights, Our Future

pdf Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society: The Government's race strategy

CRE response to DTI Statement on Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Equality and Diversity Forum welcomes the progress on a Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Summary of Changes to the CEHR

The 1990 Trust’s response to the CEHR White Paper

pdf Delivering equality and human rights for black and minority ethnic communities

Flush the academic racism in Blunkett’s office down the pan

Jacqui Smith answers questions on the Single Equalities Body

How to Contact your MP

Links:

Race and Faith and Communities

Election Memory

Catalyst Magazine

UNITE TO PROTECT OUR RIGHTS: sign the statement against the erosion of civil liberties and human rights by new anti-terrorism proposals A Black Manifesto No 2 ID FREE FAROUQ PDP ASSOCIATES Power to the People

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