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Crowdfunded legal challenge bid to government’s G4S contract halted in its tracks by High Court

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Law centres “disappointed” by result

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Pro bono law centres across the country have been refused permission to pursue a judicial review challenge involving much-criticised private security company G4S.

The judicial review, which was brought by the Law Centres Network (LCN), challenged the government’s decision-making process in awarding the global security firm a contract to run a national helpline for people facing discrimination.

The case was brought against the Secretary of State for Education in her capacity as Minister for Women and Equalities and argued the government’s tendering process fell short of its public sector Equality Duty, which states public bodies must:

[H]ave due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities.

The LCN — a network of pro bono law centres — brought the case with money raised through crowdfunding website Crowdjustice. It had asked the public for £6,500 to launch the challenge.

Head of policy at LCN Nimrod Ben-Cnaan — speaking to Legal Cheek before permission was refused — explained that the network is concerned about G4S being awarded the contract because the private company has a chequered history in delivering public contracts and described the government’s substantive decision as “worrying”.

Indeed, G4S’s recent timeline is littered with controversies.

A 15-year-old girl, sentenced to a stay in a youth facility run by G4S in 2009, claimed she had a miscarriage in her room and was not taken to hospital for a week and a half. The company has also found itself in hot water for allegedly failing to provide the necessary security guards for the London 2012 Olympics and later for charging the taxpayer for the provision of electronic tags for offenders who were never tagged — sometimes because they were dead or in prison — for which it was made to repay £109 million.

This year, after it was announced G4S had been awarded the discrimination helpline contract, human rights organisation Liberty called for a parliamentary inquiry into the decision, citing the security provider’s “repeated human rights abuses”. The group produced a dossier detailing the company’s “history of discrimination, human rights violations, malpractice and mismanagement”.

One human rights lawyer tweeted an extract from this dossier:

Addressing the court on Friday, Mrs Justice Simler recognised there are “serious public concerns” about G4S, but explained she wasn’t satisfied further inquiries into the equalities impact of choosing G4S would have led to a different decision.

Ben-Cnaan has described the decision as “truly disappointing”.