Small group with big plans for reform

Sir Nicholas Lyell was among a small group of demonstrators outside the Royal Courts of Justice last Wednesday. He was not the Attorney-General but a man who changed his name to mark his frustration at having a vexatious litigant order issued against him. Like the others, he was there to register his discontent with the British legal system.

The demonstrators were all members of the newly-formed Campaign for a Fair Hearing, an umbrella organisation for human rights groups set up by Action for Justice. With just two small posters announcing who they were and no shouting, the group's understated approach belied its grand plans.

The campaign wants to see a complete separation of power between the judiciary and the executive, with the Lord Chancellor being removed from Cabinet and an end to Parliamentary sovereignty. It argues that the judiciary is not independent of government and so cannot safeguard human rights. It plans to hold weekly meetings outside courts throughout the UK in a year-long campaign.

The aim of standing outside courts is to raise awareness and initiate debate at the heart of the system the campaigners are condemning.

Although their presence did not go unnoticed, most passing lawyers tried to pretend the group was not there. Sweeping past imperiously, they refused to take leaflets and exuded a tangible air of disinterest.

The group at this first meeting included representatives from the Litigants Society, Scandals of Justice, The Royal Sun Alliance Action Group, the Litigants in Person Society, as well as a criminologist from Cambridge and a philosopher from York.

Campaign organiser, Suzon Forscey-Moore, of Action for Justice: “If the Government wants to be respectable it can't deny people basic human rights.”

Vicky Russell, a criminologist from Cambridge University: “I am concerned about the “poor calibre of some judges and a culture of covering up fraud at most senior levels.”

Janet Talbot, of the Litigants Society, who represented herself in court: “I was bullied by the judge and barrister so much it made me ill and I couldn't continue my case.”