11th April 2014 Liberty

Liberty the self-professed standard bearer for the values of individual human dignity, equal treatment and fairness as the foundations of a democratic society is celebrating it's 80th year. They seek to promote a human rights and fundamental freedoms culture in the UK. Have a look at their long and varied history - here

The National Council for Civil Liberties (who became known as Liberty in 1989) was formed in 1934. A letter announcing the formation of the group was published in The Times and The Guardian and this cited "the general and alarming tendency to encroachment on the liberty of the citizen" as reason for it's establishment. Their first campaign was against the criminalisation of pacifist and anti-war literature. Subsequent protests and campaigns have been wide ranging. They have related to matters such as:

  • Defending victims of miscarriages of justice; stop and search laws; pre-charge detention; torture to obtain evidence (A & Others confirmed that evidence obtained through torture is not admissible in evidence);
    Racial issues; women's rights; the rights of military service personnel; gay rights; young people's rights; support for reluctant servicemen - people in the armed services who had realised that they had made a mistake were prevented from discharging themselves, in some cases, for up to 16 years; protection for traveller and gypsy communities; the rights of the terminally ill; the rights of asylum seekers;
  • Reforming the mental health system which had, for example, resulted in unmarried mothers being locked up in asylums;
  • Civil rights; the right to public protest; the right to strike; freedom of speech;

• M15 surveillance; data protection and privacy; censorship; bans by the BBC of artists who had attended a "People's Convention"; identity cards;
• The People's Charter; The Human Rights Act 1998.

But human rights laws have an increasingly bad reputation. Tabloid newspapers in particular have spawned the idea that human rights are effective only for prisoners, immigrants, asylum seekers and suspected terrorists and enable those categories of people to have an "easy ride".

In this climate, Liberty has taken on the monumental task of convincing the government and general public alike that human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that all humans should be guaranteed. This necessarily includes the right of access to a fair and just legal system.

Without help ordinary people are at a disadvantage when in dispute with government bodies, employers, insurers and multi-nationals. Recent changes to legal funding have the effect of making it uneconomical for Solicitors to advise and represent many ordinary people in a wide variety of claims ranging from criminal matters to industrial disease and personal injury claims. Access to justice for many ordinary people is under threat. This threat has made many in the legal profession feel that there is now a "general and alarming tendency to (encroach) on the liberty of the citizen." In other words the challenges that were present when Liberty were formed are present today.

Like Liberty, Woodward seek to represent the interests of the ordinary person and to ensure that they receive quality legal advice and to re-dress the balance and disadvantage that ordinary people face. On a daily basis Woodward fight claims for ordinary people against government bodies, employers, insurers and multi-nationals. Woodward congratulate Liberty for the successes that they have had over the last 80 years.

For more information on Liberty and the fantastic work that they do, and have been doing since 1934, please see - here.


Peter Lyons, LL.B (Hons.), Solicitor

Head of Industrial Disease, Industrial Disease Department

Peter joined Woodward Solicitors in September 2013. For Peter's professional profile please see - here


Liberty website