• In the case of R Reilly no 2 v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2016] EWCA Civ 413, the state cannot intervene in legal proceedings to influence the outcome in favour to themselves as this contravenes the rule of law.

Facts of the Case

  • Prior to an appeal hearing by the Supreme Court in Reilly (No 1) [2013] UKSC 68; [2014] AC 453 regarding the validity of the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011, Parliament passed the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013.
  • The 2013 Act operated retrospectively and validated the 2011 Regulations.
  • Cs wanted a declaration of incompatibility against the 2013 Act on the basis that it contravened Article 6(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights. Their arguments were that the ongoing legal proceedings were being intervened in favour of the Government by validating the 2011 Regulations and sanctions imposed on benefit claimants under the regime.


  • Was the 2013 Act in contravention with Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)?

Held by the Court of Appeal

  • The Court of Appeal found that the 2013 Act was incompatible with Article 6(1) ECHR.

Underhill LJ

  • It was found that Parliament is not stopped from creating new legislation which operates retrospectively, but what is hindered is the interference of the Government in ongoing legal proceedings, other than on the basis of general interest.
  • “…but it is important to appreciate that the core principle on which the court’s reasoning is based is that it is—at least prima facie—contrary to the rule of law for the state to interfere in current legal proceedings in order to influence the outcome in a manner favourable to itself.” [44]
  • “We believe that the intervention of the Government to remove from such appellants what would otherwise have been a conclusive ground of appeal (on the basis of which some had already received decisions in their favour) was unquestionably an interference which engaged the Zielinski principle; and we do not believe that it was justified. We address below Mr Eadie’s submissions to the contrary, as formulated in the Secretary of State’s six grounds of appeal.” [83]