Black Civil Right groups win Supreme court ruling


This week we celebrate an important and unprecedented legal victory secured in the UK Supreme Court. The case of P Vs Metropolitan Police Service, a black, disabled, female police officer alleged she suffered discrimination during the course of internal misconduct hearings, in breach of the 2010 Equalities Act.

The matter went to Employment Tribunal and the Metropolitan Police defence was that the panel hearing the officer’s appeal enjoyed "judicial immunity" for equalities legalisation and therefore could not be subject to legal challenge nor were they bound by its provisions.

This is a quite remarkable position for a supposedly modern police service and a Ministry of Justice, both publically committed to the cause of equality, to take in the year 2017. The case was lost by the officer and then went to the Court of Appeal where again the case was lost and was subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court.

UK Black organisations of long standing, Operation Black Vote, Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC UK) the Society of Black Lawyers, The Association of Muslim Lawyers, have come together to form the Race4Justice coalition, to examine how we secure more sustainable and enduring progress on race equality.

We came to the unsurprising conclusion, that we need to force a paradigm shift in political thinking in order to get race equality back on the political agenda, As a result, the groups applied to co-join the Supreme Court case and then collectively filed an Amicus Brief, a legal mechanism that poses critical questions that seek legal clarity on issues where the current law is either contested or confused.

The Supreme Court ruling was delivered and they agreed with our submissions, that European Framework Directive required that employees were entitled to legal remedy, if they believed they were subject to discrimination in the course of internal grievance and disciplinary tribunals.

It's an example of how heavily we rely on European law to fight discrimination in the workplace here in the UK. Post Brexit, there is no telling whether we will still enjoy higher level of anti discriminatory protection that Europe legislation offers.

The Supreme Court decision removes the ability of Judges, the Police, the British Medical Association and other professions that employ quasi-judicial, compliant appeal processes, to claim judicial immunity when responding to claims of discrimination.

This huge victory will provide comfort to millions of employees who suffer such discrimination and not just black people. This ruling applies to all protected groups as defined in the Equalities Act, including, women, people with disabilities and lesbian and gay employees among others.

We at #Race4Justice are determined to pursue a radical legal strategy that seeks to fully explore all opportunities for legal challenges to be mounted in relation to racial discrimination and inequality. In many ways, this mirrors the struggle for equality in the United States during the 1960s. Led by Dr King, the civil rights movement put bodies on the street and lawyers in the courtroom.

The advances and set backs in the long UK struggle for race equality is in many ways much like the stock market, its fortunes rise and fall. Policy progress has been slow, reactionary and inconsistent, driven largely by catastrophic events such as the murder of Stephen Lawrence or controversial deaths in police custody.

From the 1960's onwards there was slow but steady progress leading up to the publication of the McPherson report in 1999. Since then, there has been a long period of retrenchment and regression. Many of the advances secured in the immediate aftermath of the publication of the report have slowly been abandoned or allowed to wither into obscurity. And of late, amplified and aggravated by ideological austerity, we've seen institutional, systemic racism become more entrenched and racial disadvantage increase accordingly

The stark reality is, the day when all Britons, regardless of colour or religion can enjoy genuine equality, is receding into the distant future, and we are in danger of bequeathing Black, Asian and ethnic minority children the tragic circumstance of a society with ever increasing rates of racial inequality and racial disadvantage.

That's why we need a robust legal strategy that is capable of delivering equality in our lifetime. This is a new strand of activity that we believe can produce universal benefits and offer much more sustainable progress in securing our due rights to equality and finally reaching that day, when all Britain's citizens can say, that we are all, without exception, truly equal.

Until that day you will see us in court and we served notice on all of Britain’s major institutions that are consistently failing to tackle racial discrimination, which we intend to vigorously pursue through the courts.

Dismantling the cover of "judicial immunity" is an important step in removing the barriers in achieving these goals and we are delighted at the result, and further determined to seek legal challenges that offer the greatest protection to the largest number of people.

Black British organisations have heralded a new phase in the struggle for racial equality, welcome to the British civil rights struggle.

Lee Jasper