Shami Chakrabarti – The fight that’s never done – 80 years of Liberty

  • 09/05/2014



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A sell out crowd greeted Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty when she attended a joint Manchester Law Society and University of Manchester Law School event at the Spiningfield office of DWF on 1st May.

Founded by way of a letter to the Manchester Guardian in 1934 Liberty’s work is never far from the headlines. Whether undertaking ground-breaking test case litigation or high profile public campaigns, from huge strides on gay rights and racial equality to the defeat of ID cards and 42 days pre-charge detention and defending privacy, the rule of law and our Human Right’s Act, the organisation’s underlying motivation remains the belief that everyone deserves to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.

Also known as the National Council for Civil Liberties Liberty it is a cross party, non-party membership organisation at the heart of the movement for fundamental rights and freedoms in the UK.

Ms Chakrabarti may be small in stature but is a most impressive and eloquent speaker that held the audience enthralled.  A barrister by background she worked as a lawyer in the Home Office for Governments of both persuasions.  She was made an Honorary Professor of Law at the University of Manchester in January this year and is one just six independent assessors advising Lord Justice Leveson in his Public Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the UK Press.

In 1948 the newly formed United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the most important agreements in world history.  The European Convention on Human Rights was ratified by the United Kingdom in 1951 and in 1998 the Human Rights Act was passed in order to give further effect to the European Convention in British law.

Ms Chakrabarti said that it was impossible to say how many people have been protected by these laws, or how many lives have been saved but there was still work to do to end current human rights violations and building a better, safer future for everyone.

Closer to home, she said that the Government’s proposals as regards access to justice were inconsistent, inaccurate and confusing.  Despite what the government was saying there was no evidence of a massive expansion of judicial review, something that is vitally important in allowing individuals to hold the Government to account and ensuring that the State behaves within the law.   

Ms Chakrabarti added that access to justice is a fundamental right, not just a right of one who can afford it and the government reforms and the attempts to implement them do affect the system of checks and balances function of the courts so fundamental to our democracy.

Ms. Chakrabarti was introduced by Manchester Law Society President and gunnercooke llp partner, David Joseph and thanked by Honorary Treasurer of Manchester Law Society and DWF llp partner, Jon Hainey.

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