Creating a fairer Britain
The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. The information on this page reflects changes to the law.
This guide is for you if you are involved with:
as a member of the public.
This is whether you are a victim, a witness, a suspect, involved in a court case or tribunal in any way, or an offender.
Pages in this section include:
This guide also contains the following sections, which are similar in each guide in the series, and contain information you are likely to need to understand what we tell you about your rights to equality in relation to the criminal and civil justice systems:
Some activities of criminal and civil justice organisations are what the law calls services. Some, usually if an organisation is a public body or under contract to a public body, are what the law calls public functions.
If a police officer is giving advice on crime prevention, they are providing a service.
Services also include what other people do, such as court and tribunal staff, and people who work behind the scenes making decisions about how treatment or care should be provided.
Public functions include situations where the police are stopping and searching someone, or arresting a person, or when someone is held in prison or being supervised by offender management services, as well as decisions about priorities for services, such as how many police officers there should be in a particular area.
It does not usually matter whether what is being done is a service or a public function. This is because, in general, equality law applies in a very similar way to services and to public functions.
In this guide:
Public sector organisations and others who deliver services for them or carry out public functions on their behalf may have to have what the law calls ‘due regard to the need to advance equality of opportunity’ between people who have a particular protected characteristic and people who don’t. These are known as the public sector equality duties, and they apply to the protected characteristics of race, disability and sex.
When you are involved with criminal or civil justice organisations which are public sector organisations or others who deliver services for them or carry out public functions on their behalf, you may also have rights under the Human Rights Act 1998.
You can contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission to find out more about the public sector equality duties and the Human Rights Act.