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CAJ wins anti-poverty strategy legal challenge (no embargo)

Date: 30 June 2015

CAJ has today (30 June 2015) won a legal challenge against the Northern Ireland Executive for failing to adopt a strategy to tackle poverty, social exclusion and patterns of deprivation on the basis of objective need (the anti-poverty strategy). This is required by legislation passed as a result of the 2006 St Andrews Agreement.  Judgment was delivered in the Judicial Review Court in Belfast by Mr Justice Treacy this morning (In the matter of an application by the Committee on the Administration of Justice and Brian Gormally for Judicial Review).

The Court held that it was clear that ‘no such’ anti-poverty strategy had in fact been adopted by the Northern Ireland Executive thereby breaching its legal obligation.

The Court also held that CAJ had correctly identified this legal duty as an important milestone in the development of equality law in Northern Ireland. For the first time the duty placed ‘objective need’ on a statutory footing and made it central to the provision of an anti-poverty strategy. The intention of the concept of ‘objective need’ is to remove or reduce the scope for discrimination by tying the allocation of resources to neutral criteria that measure deprivation irrespective of community background or other affiliation.  The Court held that it is difficult to see how the Executive could develop and deliver an anti-poverty strategy except on the basis of clearly defined objective need.

CAJ Director Brian Gormally said:

“At one level this is quite a simple matter – the law said the Executive had to adopt an anti-poverty strategy on the basis of objective need. They did not do so and can no longer pretend otherwise.

“This law and the whole framework of resources being tied to objective need was introduced as a cornerstone of the peace settlement and having such a strategy is even more important at a time when increasing austerity is being imposed on Northern Ireland by the ‘finance and welfare’ provisions of the Stormont House Agreement. The law means that any action the Executive takes must be done within the framework of an anti-poverty strategy based on objective need.”   

For a background briefing see: http://rightsni.org/2014/10/the-background-to-cajs-legal-challenge-to-the-anti-poverty-strategy/

Full judgement can be found http://bit.ly/1LFDcPm

The judicial review was supported by the Public Interest Litigation Support service.

For further information contact Brian Gormally at CAJ on 90316000 or 07718336147