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How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.

How we support cases

What you need to know

How we support legal cases

  • The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is a non departmental public body. Our powers and duties derive from a number of statutes which have been enacted over the last decades, providing protection against discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, race, religious belief and political opinion, sex and sexual orientation. We also have responsibilities arising from the Northern Ireland Act 1998 in respect of the statutory equality and good relations duties which apply to public authorities.

  • The Commission has an important role in ensuring effective application of Northern Ireland’s equality laws.  We have a duty to provide advice to anyone who believes they have experienced unlawful discrimination on grounds of age, disability, race, religious belief, political opinion, sex or sexual orientation.  Religious belief includes those having no religious belief and sexual orientation includes those whose orientation is towards those of a different sex or both sexes.

  • The Commission may also provide legal advice and representation to people taking cases of discrimination to Tribunals and Courts and the criteria we use when making decisions on legal assistance is set out in our Policy for the Provision of Advice and Assistance (pdf). The legislation does not provide us with the power to support respondents.

  • Decisions on supporting cases are taken by Legal Funding Committees, made up of Commissioners. Committee members are rotated to ensure that each meeting has three committee members present. The Chair of this Committee rotates between all members.

  • The Commission has been contacted by over 3,000 individuals with potential complaints of unlawful discrimination each year for the past 4 to 5 years. All of these people receive information and advice from our staff and people are encouraged to resolve their disputes informally were possible.  Generally only 10% of those initial enquiries come back looking for support in taking legal action, as their situation has not been resolved. The Commission considers these requests in accordance with its Policy for the Provision of Advice and Assistance and in the current business year approximately one in five of these cases are then supported.

  • Decisions on whether or not discrimination has occurred are a matter for the Court or tribunal before which a case is brought.

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