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Equality Commission

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) how much has been spent by the Equality Commission in each year since its formation in providing legal assistance and support to plaintiffs in respect of (a) sex discrimination and (b) religious discrimination; and what the average amount spent was on each category in each year; (98232)

(2) in how many cases financial assistance and support were given by the Equality Commission to plaintiffs pursuing (a) sex discrimination cases and (b) religious discrimination cases where the case was subsequently abandoned by the Equality Commission in each year since its formation; and how much was spent on each category of case in each year;

(3) in which cases relating to (a) sex discrimination and (b) religious discrimination the Equality Commission spent more than £50,000 in each year since its formation.

The Equality Commission, as reported in its annual reports, spent the following amounts on legal fees in respect of its duty to provide assistance to complainants and potential complainants. The amounts exclude staff costs.

Amount (£)

Sex discrimination

Religious and political opinion discrimination

1999-00

293,046

253,300

2000-01

348,867

166,780

2001-02

631,861

170,261

2002-03

829,558

916,357

2003-04

524,967

239,464

2004-05

72,611

74,390

An average spend is not always available as many cases continue over a number of financial years.

The Equality Commission operates an enforcement policy for the provision of advice and assistance to complainants. Such assistance is subject to review. On review the Equality Commission may withdraw assistance because information gathered suggests that the case is unlikely to be successful, because the complainant no longer wishes to pursue proceedings or the case does not fall within the strategic objectives of the Commission’s policy on assistance.

The Equality Commission database shows the following numbers of cases were discontinued in each year of operation. Figures are not available for 1999-2000.

Cases

Sex discrimination

Religious and political opinion discrimination

2000-01

1

2001-02

8

3

2002-03

139

202

2003-04

58

93

2004-05

27

17

2005-06

2

10

It should be noted that an individual may complain under more than one ground of discrimination. Where there are a number of grounds including sex discrimination, these are included with the figure for sex discrimination. Where there are a number of grounds including religious and political opinion discrimination, these are included with the figure for religious and political opinion discrimination. Where both sex and religion and political opinion discrimination are mentioned these cases are included in both; those covering both encompass :

15 cases in 2002-03

4 cases in 2003-04

3 cases in 2004-05

Gathering the information in relation to the costs associated with the discontinued cases will require further analysis and the Chief Executive of the Equality Commission will respond directly to the hon. Member and a copy of the letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

The Equality Commission spent more than £50,000 in two cases relating to sex discrimination and one case relating to Religion/Politics. Each of these cases continued for more than one financial year.

Religion/Politics

One case which was heard in the Court of Appeal NI—total spend: £71,769.28.

Sex Discrimination

One case which was heard in the Court of Appeal NI—total spend: £117,251.04

One case which was heard in the House of Lords—total spend: £168,267.05