Jun 21, 2024 2 min read

Judge confirms Kneecap can take legal action against government

Kneecap have been granted leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision by UK Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch to block grant funding because of the group’s political output. That decision, says Kneecap’s lawyer, was an attack on freedom of expression and the Good Friday Agreement

Judge confirms Kneecap can take legal action against government
Photo credit: Peadar Ó Goill

Belfast rappers Kneecap have secured permission from the high court to take legal action against the UK government over its blocking of a grant from the Music Export Growth Scheme. That grant, which is government funded, was seemingly blocked by the Department For Business And Trade because of the politics of the group’s output, in particular their support for a united Ireland.

Welcoming the latest development, Kneecap member DJ Próvaí insisted that the band’s legal action was not about the money they lost when their grant was blocked, but the principle of the government’s conduct.

The government’s decision, he said, according to the BBC, was “an attack on artistic culture, an attack on the Good Friday Agreement and an attack on us and our way of expressing ourselves. We are paying taxes and surely we have a right to the benefit of those taxes, regardless of our political beliefs”. 

It emerged earlier this year that Kneecap’s application for MEGS funding had been approved by a music industry panel but then blocked by the department of Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, seemingly because of the group’s political views. A spokesperson for the minister said at the time that they did not want to hand taxpayers' money “to people that oppose the United Kingdom itself”.

The band almost immediately confirmed that they would take legal action over the decision. Their lawyer Darragh Mackin said this week that Badenoch’s intervention to block the group’s grant was an attack on identity, freedom of expression and the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement. “The underpinning discrimination is hiding in plain sight”, he added. 

Specifically, the band have been seeking a judicial review, which is a legal case where a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public authority. 

Judge David Scoffield yesterday confirmed that he was “granting leave to apply for a judicial review”, with a full hearing scheduled for November. Although, he noted, that decision “doesn’t say anything in particular about the ultimate strengths of the case”. 

Of course, by November the UK will have a new government, although the lawfulness of ministers blocking funding on political grounds can still be scrutinised. 

Badenoch, meanwhile, seems likely to retain her seat in Parliament, although in the current General Election nothing is certain for Conservative Party candidates. However, assuming she does win, she will likely be one of the few prominent Tories left in Parliament, making her a key contender for the next leader of the party.

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