Human rights

Independent Human Rights Act Review

The Human Rights Act codifies and protects fundamental rights and freedoms and ensures everyone, no matter their wealth or status, can uphold those rights in UK courts.

The rights enshrined in the act are core to the UK’s identity as a democratic, fair and just nation. They’re embedded in our culture and legal system and it’s vital that these rights are not rolled back on or compromised.

Independent Human Rights Act Review

The establishment of the Independent Human Rights Act Review was announced in December 2020.

The panel considered options for amending the Human Rights Act and invited views in a call for evidence. It examined the relationship between domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the relationship between the UK courts, executive and parliament.

The panel’s final report was published in December 2021.

Read the report on GOV.UK

Overall, the report finds that the Human Rights Act has been a success, and does not advocate for radical change.

It makes several recommendations, including to:

  • develop a programme of civic and constitutional education, focusing on human rights
  • amend section 2 of the Human Rights Act to clarify the order of priority in which domestic law and case law from the European Court of Human Rights should be applied by judges
  • amend section 3 to clarify that normal methods of interpretation should be used first and, where this does not result in a rights-compatible result, then a rights-compatible interpretation should be applied
  • introduce powers to suspend quashing orders or make them prospective only in human rights judgments
  • address extraterritorial application of human rights
  • amend section 10 to clarify that remedial orders cannot be used to amend the Human Rights Act itself and improve parliamentary scrutiny of remedial orders

Government consultation

The government has issued a further public consultation. This is open until 8 March 2022.

It is seeking views on a wide range of topics, including:

  • the duties on courts to take account of case law from the European Court of Human Rights and to interpret legislation compatibly with Convention rights
  • extending the use of declarations of incompatibility to secondary legislation and introducing suspended and prospective quashing orders in human rights claims
  • introducing a permission stage for human rights claims
  • when public authorities are held accountable for human rights violations
  • restricting when human rights apply in deportation cases
  • how rights are balanced against each other, such as freedom of expression and privacy
  • extraterritorial application of human rights

Our view

We welcome the Independent Human Rights Act Review’s acknowledgment that the Human Rights Act is working well overall.

The government’s consultation goes much further than the review’s remit and recommendations. While some of the proposals appear similar to current practice, many others:

  • would be drastic changes
  • will require careful consideration

While we welcome the government’s continued commitment to remaining a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, its proposals in several areas risk putting us on a collision course with the European Court of Human Rights. This will lead to:

  • more cases going to the European Court  
  • unnecessary change which would diminish human rights protections in the UK

While we'll examine the proposals in detail, we call on the government to maintain our robust system of protections and global reputation as a leader in ensuring human rights.

What we’re doing

March 2021we responded to the Independent Human Rights Act Review call for evidence

February 2021 – we submitted an overview of our position to the Joint Committee on Human Rights to inform its response to the review

February 2021 – we held roundtables with expert solicitors to gather evidence and insights to inform our response to the review

Get involved

If you’re a Law Society member and would like to stay informed of our work on the Independent Human Rights Act Review, email Hazel Blake, our policy adviser.

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