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Tackling barriers to strategic court cases in Scotland

Today sees the publication of a new report, Overcoming Barriers to Public PILInterest Litigation in Scotland, which explores why there is a lack of strategic court action in Scotland and suggests recommendations to address this.

It suggests key barriers are:

  • Poor access to information about court cases;
  • Limitations to who can take a case to court;
  • Short time-limits for taking cases;
  • Inhibitive costs and financial risk;
  • A limited culture of using public interest litigation to bring change.

Authors Clan Childlaw, Human Rights Consortium Scotland, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Shelter Scotland, JustRight Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland are clear that if we are to see human rights progressed in Scotland, we need more NGOs to be able to pursue strategic cases.

The WF case, in which Rape Crisis Scotland intervened, is one example which shows the difference strategic litigation can make to peoples lives.

In a landmark ruling, Lord Glennie overturned the decision of Scottish Ministers to refuse to make legal aid available to a woman to enable her to challenge attempts to access her personal records, and stated that access to medical or otherwise sensitive records represented a significant breach of a complainer's article 8 right to privacy. He ruled that complainers had a right to be heard when attempts were being made to obtain their sensitive records.

This was a key legal judgement which led to improvements in the protection of complainers’ human rights within the Scottish justice system.

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