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Thursday, 4 March 2021

Human Rights Act ReviewThe Independent Human Rights Act Review has been tasked with reviewing the Human Rights Act 1998. It asked for evidence on two main themes: the relationship between domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights and the impact of the Human Rights Act on the relationship between Parliament, the Government and the courts.

In our submission, we argue that the Human Rights Act 1998 has played a key role in the protection of rights in the United Kingdom, fulfilling its purpose of 'bringing rights home'. Moreover, it has done so in a way that has led to effective judicial dialogue between domestic courts and the ECtHR. Whilst respecting the role of the ECtHR, domestic courts have been able to point out situations in which the ECtHR has failed to fully understand domestic law. There is evidence of both courts working together to provide a better protection of rights.

In addition, the Act respects the proper constitutional balance between Parliament, the Government and the courts. Courts are cautious of making policy choices which are best left to the legislature and the Government. The Act itself requires courts to read and give effect to Convention rights so far as it is possible to do so. Courts have exercised this power in a manner that does not frustrate the intentions of the legislature, which includes an assessment of the context and purpose of legislation in addition to the wording of legislation. Moreover, courts will often issue a declaration of incompatibility in situations where Parliament is more constitutionally suited to ensuring Convention rights are protected.

To the extent that change is required, the Act could be improved by bolstering the abilities of Parliament to scrutinise legislation that may harm rights and to engage in greater pre- and post-legislative scrutiny of legislation designed to protect human rights.

The Centre also submitted three separate pieces of written evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which is also holding an inquiry into the Independent Human Rights Act Review, written by Dr Stephanie Palmer, Dr Martin Steinfeld and Dora Robinson.

The Centre members responsible for the submission were: Professor Alison Young, Dr Kirsty Hughes, Dr Stevie Martin, Dr Stephanie Palmer, Dr Martin Steinfeld, Alexandra Allen-Franks, Guy Baldwin, Konatsu Nishigai, Matthew Psycharis, Dora Robinson and Aradhya Sethia.