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Activism

Climate change, police violence, and benefits: The people taking the government to court

As the government looks to water down people’s power to challenge the state, a number of groups are using that power to hold them accountable.

If you’re looking to fix injustice or change society, there are a few options available to you. And if taking to the streets or signing a petition doesn’t cut it, you’re free to take the government to court.

The government is currently being accused of trying to water down people’s power to challenge the state.

The Judicial Review and Courts Bill, which is in its report stage this week, would prevent certain types of judicial review. There are fears this will put people off launching legal action in future.

But, for now, a host of high-profile court cases – from police violence to climate change – are using that right to challenge the government’s decisions.

A bid to give the inquiry into Sarah Everard’s murder greater powers

The Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), along with 21 other women’s groups, have started judicial review proceedings to make the Home Office grant statutory powers to the inquiry into Sarah Everard’s death.

Without these powers the inquiry will miss the chance to tackle issues of systemic violence, says the CWJ.

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At the moment, the inquiry cannot compel witnesses to testify or force the Met to hand evidence over. The last non-statutory inquiry into the Met – the Daniel Morgan inquiry – took eight years to report.

The government says it can make the inquiry statutory if it thinks it’s necessary, and that setting it up on a non-statutory footing will make things quicker. But it’s this stance the CWJ is challenging.

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Suing the government over a net zero policy that ‘won’t achieve net zero’

The UK government’s net zero strategy is breaking the law by not doing enough to actually deliver net zero, two climate groups claim.

Papers filed separately this month by two groups – ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth – say the policy, published in October, will not actually deliver net zero. It is too vague and reliant on technologies like burying carbon dioxide, the groups argue.

Instead of this ‘pie in the sky plan’, the groups want the government to outline more measures on how it will reach net zero.

Prince Harry’s bid to pay for his own police protection

Prince Harry is taking the Home Office to court to allow him to pay for his own security while in the UK.

The royal exile says it’s too risky to visit the UK without police protection as his US-based private security team can’t work as effectively as the police. But the Home Office has refused to let him pay out of his own pocket, and so the Duke of Sussex has launched judicial review proceedings.

“The UK will always be Prince Harry’s home and a country he wants his wife and children to be safe in. With the lack of police protection, comes too great a personal risk,” a statement said.

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DWP sued over ‘morally bankrupt’ legacy benefits decision

A group of claimants is waiting for the High Court to rule after they took the DWP to court for its “morally bankrupt” refusal to give Covid support to people on legacy benefits.

The DWP increased universal credit payments at the start of the pandemic – but it did not extend this increase to those on legacy benefits, such as employment and support allowance.

In a similar case last week, the High Court found the government had discriminated against severely disabled people who were moved onto universal credit.

But those involved in this case speak of frustration at the delay.

“Everyday I receive heartbreaking and enraging messages from people struggling on legacy benefits for whom the cost of living crisis is nothing new,” Jamie Burton, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, said on Twitter.

“I understand the frustration with the delay in the court decision and will make sure it’s out as soon as I can.”

Three young people suing the government for its failure to tackle climate change

Three young people have taken the government to court, arguing that it is breaching their right to life by not doing everything needed to avoid a climate disaster.

At a hearing in November, Marina Tricks, Jerry Amokwandoh, and Adetola Onamade, also said climate inaction was discriminating against those in the global south who would suffer the most.

In a witness statement, Onamade said: “When I see the government breaking its own commitments under international law, including the Paris agreement, and the duty to prevent harm, the impact on me is profound.”

The High Court ruled against the claimants, but they have lodged an appeal.

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