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30 Faculty members and associates contributed to CPL’s Spring 2022 response to the Government’s Consultation on reform of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). The report drew upon their extensive expertise and knowledge of civil liberties and human rights prior to the HRA, the drafting of the HRA and its subsequent operation, the European Convention on Human Rights, Constitutional and Administrative law, International law and comparative human rights and constitutional law. We also consulted with the Faculty’s criminal law experts in respect of the proposal to introduce a qualified right to trial by jury and international law experts in respect of extra-territoriality. All were unanimous in the view that the proposed Bill was regressive and would weaken the protection of rights in the UK.

Our unanimous conclusion was that if the Government implements its proposals it will endanger a return to the position prior to the introduction of the HRA in which individuals seeking to enforce their rights were obliged to undertake lengthy and costly proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights. The likely result will be an increase in findings of violations by the Strasbourg Court. A prospect that is impossible to square with the Governments purported full commitment to the Convention.

We were also concerned that a number of the proposals indicated a desire to reduce the level of protection accorded to specific rights in ways that are likely to place the UK in breach of its international obligations, obligations that include, but are certainly by no means limited to, those that stem from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Underscoring our response was a concern about the adverse consequences that would flow from allowing a gulf to develop between the UK’s domestic law and the Convention scheme. These concerns fall broadly into two categories: (i) consequences for the UK’s international obligations, and (ii) the certainty and legitimacy of the resultant rights framework.

Moreover, in addition to the grave international and domestic implications of such a move we concluded that the case for such reform has not been established. There was no mandate for the proposals in the report of the Independent Human Rights Act Review. Nor was the case for the proposed reform established in the Government’s Consultation document. Indeed, we were particularly troubled by the extent to which we found the Consultation document to be inconsistent, incoherent, and at times misleading. These deficiencies permeated both the rationale for the proposal, as well as the details of the proposal itself.

For these reasons we cautioned the Government to reconsider.

Dr Kirsty Hughes, Director of CPL