English Legal System - The Human Rights Act (Part 2)

The Human Rights Act 1998

The Human Rights Act 1998 finally came into force in October 2000. The introduction of the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998 has provoked much debate, criticism and media debate. The preamble to the Human Rights Act 1998 states that it is ‘An Act to give further effect to the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights’.

The effect of this Act is to strengthen the rights of the individual, and the rights that have been laid down in the convention can now be enforced through the UK courts (s7) rather than going to Strasbourg. The UK courts are required under s3 to interpret all legislation in a way which is compatible with Convention rights ‘so far as it is possible to do so’.

This has lead to commentators questioning the future of Parliamentary sovereignty, although it should be noted that Parliament does still have the ability to repeal any legislation passed, the possibilities of this happening to the HRA is open to debate.

The judiciary are now faced with the task of trying to balance UK legislation with the Human Rights Act and this has lead to a number of highly controversial cases, together with its use in many cases which may not have originally been predicted. Michael Howard QC, MP stated that ‘it is because the so-called Human Rights Act involves a significant transfer of power from Parliament to the judges that it constitutes a profound weakening of our accountable democratic traditions’ The Times, 5 August 2000.

Others hold the conflicting view that the Human Rights Act has strengthened individual freedoms and democracy, and can be regarded as a step towards the UK gaining a Bill of Rights. 


The rights and freedoms contained in the Convention are set out in articles

Article 1
Places a requirement on the State to ‘secure to everyone in their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms [of the Convention]

Article 2
‘Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following a conviction of crime for which this penalty is provided by law’

Article 3 
‘no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’

Article 4
‘no one shall be held in slavery or servitude…. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour’

Article 5
‘everyone has the right to liberty and security of person’

Article 6
‘In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law’

Article 7

‘No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence… at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed that the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.’

Article 8
'Everybody has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’.   
- Article 8.2 lists when there might be exceptions to this right, for example in the interests of national security

Article 9
‘Everybody has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’

Article 10
‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression’

Article 12
‘Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and found a family’

Articles 11 and 13
relates to freedom of assembly and association
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