The High Court has today refused permission for a Judicial Review of a controversial decision to award the national equalities and human rights helpline contract to outsourcing corporation G4S. This means that the service will be transferred over to G4S’ hands tomorrow, 1 October.
The claim was brought by charity Law Centres Network (LCN), with public backing from a crowdfunding campaign. LCN has argued that government appeared to have fallen short of the standard set by the Public Sector Equality Duty, which includes considering how public procurement decisions impact equalities considerations – especially when the service in question is itself dedicated to equalities.
Mrs Justice Simler recognised “serious public concerns” about G4S’ record raised by “respected organisations” as LCN, Liberty and others. However, she was not satisfied that further inquiries into the equalities impacts of choosing G4S would have led government to choose differently.
All parties have agreed with LCN that the claim is in the public interest. This is also reflected in a letter on the matter from the Joint Committee on Human Rights chair, wanting clarifications on how government intends to make EASS “an accessible, confidence-building helpline service”. A 38 Degrees petition protesting the G4S contract has over 78,000 signatories to date. A crowdfunding page in support of this case has attracted nearly 200 backers.
LCN’s concerns about G4S as a public service provider have been well-publicised and are captured in a dossier, prepared by charity Liberty, documenting G4S’ human rights violations in previous public contracts. Given bad publicity around the 2012 Olympics security scandal and the death of Jimmy Mubenga while in G4S custody, LCN argued that it was reasonable to expect government to pay special consideration to appointing such a controversial contractor.
Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, Head of Policy at LCN, said:
“A core element of Law Centres’ work is calling public bodies to account on behalf of disadvantaged people. We have taken this legal action out of understandable concern. Discrimination and human rights are complex areas of law where people are likely to need professional help to resolve their problems. They should be provided with an effective service that inspires their trust. Today’s decision is truly disappointing as it means a missed opportunity to make an important support service work.”
Daniel Carey, solicitor at law firm DPG, acting for LCN, said:
“It is disappointing that the Court has allowed the decision, to appoint G4S to provide the equalities and human rights helpline, to stand – even when the Judge accepted that it had been made in private and without any analysis of the equalities impact relating to the company’s track record. We will consider with the Law Centres Network the steps now to be taken in light of this decision.”
For press enquiries please contact
- Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, Head of Policy and Profile, Law Centres Network tel. 020 3637 1330 / 07590 050 895 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors
- The Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) provides a free helpline for people who may have been discriminated against because of their age, disability, sexuality or other categories. The service is currently provided by company Sitel in partnership with charity Disability Rights UK and several smaller organisations. See www.equalityadvisoryservice.com.
- The Law Centres Network is the membership body for Law Centres. Each Law Centre is a legal practice that is a charity, serving its local community. Law Centres specialise in free legal advice on social welfare law, provided free of charge to people in poverty and disadvantage. See www.lawcentres.org.uk.
- The Public Sector Equality Duty explained: http://bit.ly/2cGOPeE.
- The dossier of known G4S violations: http://bit.ly/2cheUjA.
- Report on 48 MPs’ letter to Justine Greening (in Buzzfeed): http://bzfd.it/2dA8YR7.
- Harriet Harman’s letter to Justine Greening asking for clarifications on the G4S decision: http://bit.ly/2drO3nj.
- The 38 Degrees petition mentioned above: http://bit.ly/2dthYGn. An earlier, 61,000-strong online petition: http://bit.ly/2c03fH3.