Human Rights Act 1998
The Human Rights Act 1998 is the law which lays out the basic rights and freedoms that any person in the United Kingdom can expect to have protected. This Act specifically makes law in the UK the human rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and “gives further effect” to the Convention. Understanding the contents of this Act, why it was necessary and what happens when it is violated should help everyone in the UK feel more confident and comfortable knowing their protections via the law.
Contents of the Human Rights Act 1998The Human Rights Act 1998 makes it a law in the UK that specific human rights and freedoms must be respected of everyone in the United Kingdom, at all times. This means it offers protection in extraordinary situations, but also in everyone’s daily lives. The Act protects the rights to:
- Fair trials.
- Freedom of expression.
- Respect for private and family life.
- Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
- Freedom of assembly and association.
- Participation in free elections.
- Freedom of assembly.
- Freedom to peacefully enjoy property.
- Freedom from torture or degrading treatment.
- Freedom from slavery or forced labour.
- Freedom from being subjected to the death penalty.
- Freedom from being discriminated against regarding these human rights.
Necessity of the Human Rights Act 1998Prior to the Human Rights Act 1998, the human rights of individuals in the United Kingdom were protected by the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as well as the traditions of protection within UK law. It was not until the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force in 2000, however, that the Convention rights (those contained in the ECHR) became enforceable in United Kingdom courts. This means that now any individual who feels their Convention rights have been violated does not need to go to the European Court of Human Rights but rather can go ahead with the case in the United Kingdom. The Act also makes it clear, in one legal resource, which human rights and freedoms are protected in UK law. This makes the Act a very significant piece of legislation for everyone in the UK.
Violation of the Human Rights Act 1998Taking a case to court should be a last resort when it comes to a situation in which it is believed that human rights have been violated. Court proceedings are costly and lengthy, which means that taking a case before an established complaints body or through a mediation process may be more satisfactory for all involved. When a situation does bear taking a case to court or tribunal this may be done in the UK, and during these proceedings the case law of the European Court of Human Rights must be taken into account. Case can be taken against individual or organisations. Cases can also be taken against public authorities, such as police or immigration officers.
The Human Rights Act 1998 was a landmark piece of UK legislation which has been in force since 2000. Understanding the contents of, necessity for and ramifications of violating this Act is important for everyone in the UK in order to feel more confident in their own rights and freedoms.