A Guide to UK Constitutional Law: An Introduction to Human Rights
A Summary of Human Rights in the UK Today
This is only a introductory guide and is not comprehensive.
If you would like to join with other lawyers in promoting human rights, try Lawyers for Liberty. This is a UK organisation.
For the sake of clarity the European Court of Human Rights is abbreviated as ECtHR in this section.
These are the basic resources:-.
Cases - decisions of the European Court and Commission which have developed the jurisprudence on the ECHR will be found in the following publications (recent ones are also on the internet - see below):-
Ever since the UK Government proposed incorporation of the ECHR, there has been debate as to how much it is likely to be used. Some innovative litigation is likely to be seen, although some of it may take some time to come through. Arguably, there are some particular reasons why HRA/ECHR points might not be raised on some occasions when they could or should have been raised:-
There are also some particular reasons why arguably HRA/ECHR points will be raised when perhaps they should not:-
The Human Rights Act came into force on 2nd October 2000 except that it may be used as a defence to proceedings brought by a public authority in respect of an act which occurred before that date - s.22(4).
"So far as it is possible to do so" legislation must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with Convention rights - s.3(1).
Courts must take into account decisions of the European Court of Human Rights ("ECtHR"), the European Commission (the European Commission of Human Rights was abolished in November 1998: this Commission is not to be confused with the EU European Commission) and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe - s.2. There is no doctrine of precedent, i.e. these decisions are not binding.
It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right - s.6(1). A public authority means bodies whose functions are of a public nature which means the following are covered:-
This excludes cases where both parties are private, e.g. private sector landlord and tenant disputes. However, the courts must comply with the ECHR, including by interpreting statutes in accordance with s.3(1) and in considering the common law.
Anyone, if they are a "victim" (as defined in the decisions of the ECtHR), may:-
The courts have the same remedies for ECHR cases as they would for any other cases - s.8. However, damages or compensation are limited by the principles laid down by ECtHR - s.8(4). Compensation awarded by the ECtHR is rarely as much as would be likely to be awarded as damages if the principles of English law on damages were applied.
The ECHR has three sections:-
I. Rights and freedoms (see below)
Art.1 (obligation of State parties to secure ECHR rights) and Art.13 (right to an effective remedy for breach of ECHR) were not incorporated by HRA. However, Lord Irvine, the Lord Chancellor, stated in Parliament that this was because HRA fulfilled them and that courts would still have to take into account ECtHR decisions on Art.13.
The rights incorporated are:-
The rights must be interpreted in accordance with the following principles:-
The above rights are put into one of three categories:-
UK has only one derogation, for pre-trial detention under prevention of terrorism legislation (HRA Sch.3 Pt I).
Qualified rights may be subject to a limitation or restriction but only if:-
The ECHR is mostly about limiting state powers, i.e. setting out negative duties as to what the state cannot do, but it also imposes positive duties on state authorities to:-
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