Hickman & Rose respond to UK Government proposals to reform the Human Rights Act
10 Mar 2022
Hickman & Rose has submitted a response to the UK Government’s consultation on proposed reforms to the Human Rights Act 1998. The firm urges the Government to reconsider its plans, which if enacted, would ‘stand in clear breach of the UK’s international obligations’ and ‘do untold damage to the UK’s reputation at home and abroad’.
Hickman & Rose’s full response can be found below.
1. We have had the benefit of considering the response to the Consultation by the Police Action Lawyers Group (‘PALG’), with which we wholeheartedly agree and adopt in its entirety. Accordingly, we do not propose to recite in detail the contents of that response to the Consultation. However, we consider that a number of important points bear highlighting.
2. Simply put, we consider the wholesale changes to the UK’s human rights framework proposed in the Consultation to be unnecessary, dangerous, and highly concerning.
3. A great many of the proposed changes are redundant as the purported problems they seek to address are largely unfounded. They ignore the fact that the Human Rights Act 1998 is an effective and considered piece of legislation which has effectively upheld the rights of everyone (including the most vulnerable in our society) and held the State to account when it does wrong. The Act has done this while navigating complex constitutional waters. Contrary to the repeated and baseless assertions in the Consultation, it has done so whilst defending Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Separation of Powers.
4. By contrast to the Human Rights Act’s principled and effective provisions, the Consultation’s proposed changes are ill-thought-out at best; disingenuous at worst. Rather than ‘Bring Rights Home’ (as the Human Rights Act has done), the proposed changes would result in significant confusion, expense and reputational damage to the UK, with more individuals having to enforce their fundamental human rights at the European Court of Human Rights, rather than at home.
5. Some of proposed changes make a mockery of the UK’s long and much-praised leadership on human rights issues. These include the proposals:
(i) To reduce individuals’ access to redress when their fundamental rights are violated by the State by redefining which parts of the State are responsible for upholding human rights, reducing the obligations on those bodies, and a (quasi-medieval) character test for inalienable human rights;
(ii) To create additional procedural barriers to individuals who seek to access their (reduced) rights – such as the proposed ‘permission stage’, ‘significant disadvantage’ test, and changes to the territorial application of the ECHR; and
(iii) To adopt an isolationist and outdated interpretation of ECHR rights which, correctly put, belongs to the last century rather than this one (the proposed changes to section 2 of the HRA).
6. We consider that the proposed changes would stand in clear breach of the UK’s international obligations, including under the ECHR, and do untold damage to the UK’s reputation at home and abroad. The Government must reconsider