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Strategic litigation

Strategic litigation

The Commission has a Legal Directorate of solicitors and caseworkers with wide experience of human rights and discrimination law that run test case on equality and human rights issues. This work covers the whole gamut of social welfare and related legal issues such as access to goods, facilities and services, housing, transport, education, immigration and so on, not solely employment law.

The Commission has power to take judicial review proceedings on the basis of breaches of the Human Rights Act, or in relation to any matter in connection with which the Commission has a function - that is its equality, human rights and good relations mandates. The Commission does not need to fulfil the ‘victim’ requirement in order to do so. For further details see our human rights legal powers page.

The Commission also intervenes in human rights and equality cases taken by others, particularly at appellate level (including in the European Court of Human Rights). The Commission intervenes in public interest cases where it believes it can add value for the court and help achieve progress in the development or interpretation of human rights or equality law.

Further information

For information on our current and concluded cases see our legal interventions page.

See also updates on some of our cases.

In relation to human rights issues in Scotland, the Commission shares its remit with the Scottish Human Rights Commission and must discuss issues raised with them before taking action.

The Commission is interested in hearing from solicitors, advisers, NGOs and others who are bringing equality cases that might be of strategic importance. We will assess whether or not to get involved in a case in accordance with our strategic litigation policy. If we decide to provide legal assistance, we may do so by providing in-house legal assistance or funding for external legal assistance.

The Commission is interested in hearing from solicitors, advisers, NGOs and others who are bringing cases that the Commission might intervene in and about cases or issues that we might take up. We look for policies or practices which lead to widespread or serious breaches of equality laws or the Human Rights Act.  Unlike solicitors in private practice and NGOs we do not need an individual claimant to come forward to bring a case; the Commission can bring the case in its own name. We will assess whether or not to get involved in a case in accordance with our overall strategic priorities and our casework and litigation strategy.

Even if we are not able to assist or intervene in your particular case we will use all the information sent to us to inform our future priorities for litigation and enforcement work. So, for instance, if we receive several requests from different sources on related matters that might lead us to carry out an inquiry into a particular problem in particular sector.

We are most likely to consider bringing proceedings in our name in certain situations, for instance:

  • Where a change in the law is proposed (or rather when it has just come into force) where an early challenge could prevent actual violations
  • Where the subject matter of the case is one where the Commission is best placed due to its history, statutory duties or particular expertise to bring the claim
  • Where there are a wide range of victims whose experience can be used to illustrate a problem but where a claim brought by any one of them would not tell the whole story
  • Where the actual or potential victims do not have access to lawyers, or cannot fund a claim themselves.

Requesting Commission assistance or intervention

If you wish to contact the Commission about a case or issue that you think we might be interested in, and you are a lawyer or have some other professional interest in the matter, please contact us at:

If you have any other queries please contact legalrequest@equalityhumanrights.com.

There is no process for appealing against a decision by the Commission to refuse financial support for a case. However, if you are someone who would have directly benefited from a decision to give legal assistance for a case, and you have new evidence as specified below , you may ask us to carry out a review. You may also ask for a review if you have made a complaint about someone else (for example, a public body or a business) and you are not happy with our response.

Scope

This policy applies to a decision by the Commission:

a) to refuse legal assistance under Section 28 of the Equality Act 2006.

b) to not follow up – or to cease following up – a complaint about a third party’s alleged non-compliance with the Equality Act 2010, including in relation to the public sector equality duty.

A decision will only be reviewed if:

there is new and significant evidence or information (including legal developments) that is material to the matter and which has come to light since the Commission’s decision was made. This evidence must not have been obtainable with reasonable diligence when the original case was submitted.  It must be relevant and would likely have had an important influence on the EHRC’s decision to grant legal assistance.  It must also be apparently credible.

And/or

in relation to (b) above, you are able to provide reasons why you consider that the decision fails to satisfy one or more of the principles underlying the Commission’s regulatory role: proportionality, accountability/transparency, and consistency.

Process

1. You must put the request in writing, giving full reasons and providing any new evidence or information that the Commission is being asked to consider.

2. The request for a review must normally be received within one calendar month of the decision to which it relates.

3. The Commission will acknowledge receipt of the request for a review within five working days.

4. A senior lawyer in the Commission’s legal team, not previously involved in the matter, will assess whether one or both of the review criteria are met.

5. Before making this assessment, the senior lawyer may first write to you asking for more information to support the review request, or for clarification of new evidence or information already provided.

6. The senior lawyer will respond within 20 working days of receiving the review request or within 10 days of receiving any additional information from you, whichever is later.

7. If the senior lawyer considers that the conditions for a review have not been met, he or she will inform you of this and the decision will be final.

8. If the senior lawyer decides that the conditions for a review have been met, he or she will draft a report and recommendation for the next meeting of the Commission’s Regulatory Decision Making Panel (RDMP) and inform you that this has happened, giving you an indicative date for a final response.

9. Within five working days of the RDMP meeting, the senior lawyer will write to inform you of the RDMP’s decision, which will be recorded in the RDMP minutes and will be final.

Equal opportunities

The Commission is committed to equal opportunities and our aim is to make this review policy easy to use. We will take steps to accommodate any reasonable adjustments you may have to enable you to access the review process, such as providing correspondence in alternative formats and/or providing such other assistance that you might reasonably require.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to speak with the Commission's legal teams about a case or issue that you think we might be interested in, and you are a lawyer or have some other professional interest in the matter, please call our Lawyers' Referrals Helpline. The contact details are:

  • Lawyers' Referrals in England and Wales: 0161 829 8407 (Tues to Thurs, 10am to 1pm)
  • Lawyers' Referrals in Scotland: 0141 228 5951 (Monday to Friday)

Our experienced legal staff will be able to discuss with you whether your case concerns an issue that might fall within the Commission's strategic priorities. They will also answer any questions you may have about how to request legal assistance or an intervention from the Commission if you do have a case that we might be interested in.

(Please note however that we will not be able to provide legal advice on this Referrals Helpline. In addition, we are unable to discuss potential referrals from anyone other than professional advisers or representatives such as solicitors or barristers).

Claimants and other individuals who would like advice and information on discrimination and human rights issues should contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS).

The Commission can also provide speakers for conferences or other events from our legal teams to explain the kinds of cases we are looking for and to explain our decision-making processes.

Last updated: 09 Oct 2017