The Law Centres Network has been outlining for Parliament the practical, everyday challenges to enforcing human rights in the UK.
Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights has been looking at ways to strengthen human rights in the UK and has called for evidence from informed sources. We have responded to this in three ways.
Firstly, LCN has submitted its own written evidence to the committee (available below for download). In it we focus on the impact on human rights of cutting civil legal aid through the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012. We outline direct impact on the human rights to a fair trial, effective remedy and protection from discrimination - all of which are protected by the Human Rights Act.
Some specific issues that we have raised include the effectiveness of the legal aid 'safety net' scheme, Exceptional Case Funding; the inadequate delivery of legal assistance to fight discrimination; the growing numbers of Litigants in Person, who end up in court without advice or representation; and the worrying restrictions to people's ability to challenge the actions of public bodies.
Secondly, LCN has jointly submitted further written evidence drawn up by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR). This evidence focuses on cultural factors that erode trust in human rights and their effectiveness, including the discourse about them in political circles and in the media.
Lastly, LCN has also been invited to give oral evidence before the committee and to answer its questions. The evidence session will take place in Parliament on Wednesday, 28 February. Other organisations giving evidence include Amnesty UK, Legal Action Group and Coram Children's Legal Centre.
Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, LCN's head of policy and profile, said:
"In the UK we have much to be proud of in our human rights frameworks, but we must not take them for granted. Rights are a dead letter without practical ways of enforcing them, and we have lost a great resource for doing that in the legal aid cuts. We must strengthen access to justice or risk human rights being perceived as irrelevant."