Human Rights Act

Human Rights – Just how important is the Human Rights Act 1998?

Following the second world war the European Convention on Human Rights was enacted to ensure the atrocities seen during the war could never happen again. Getting justice using this convention was slow, cases had to be taken to the European Court of Human Rights. In 1998 this convention was enshrined in to UK law as the Human Rights Act. This made it easier to access justice and protection as cases could be heard in domestic courts.

The Human Rights Act covers:

The Right to Life – Prohibition of Torture; Prohibition of Slavery and Forced Labour – Right to Liberty and Security – Right to a fair trial – No punishment without law – Right to respect for private and family life – Freedom of thought – conscience and religion – Freedom of expression – Freedom of assembly and association – Right to marry and found a family.

To put this in to perspective this Act offers protection in all areas of life. Consider an elderly gentleman whose health requirements mean he has to live in an elderly care home. The care home cannot accept his wife living there too as she doesn’t meet the criteria. This directly breaches the couples’ right to a family. The Human Rights Act offered them both protection.

Let’s consider R (Winder and ors) v Sandwell Borough Council [2014] EWHC 2617 (Admin) where the local authority’s two year residency requirement for council tax reduction was found to unlawfully indirectly discriminate against women fleeing domestic violence. The Court found that the Council was in breach of the public sector equality duty.

Ever seen DNR or DNACPR on a patient’s notes in hospital? This means that Doctors are not to attempt to resuscitate a patient. Previously doctors did not require a patient’s permission however in R (Tracey) v Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Secretary of State for Health [2014] EWCA Civ 822 the court found that this breached the Human Rights Act (Right to life) meaning that doctors now have to have a patient’s consent to not resuscitate.

There are so many reasons why the Human Rights Act is so important, it offers protection to each and every one of us.

Written by. Emma Hoole.

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