Human rights

Independent Human Rights Act Review call for evidence – Law Society response

The Independent Human Rights Act Review was established in December 2020.

The review considers a range of issues in two key themes:

  • the relationship between domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights
  • the impact of the Human Rights Act on the relationship between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature

Our view

The Human Rights Act confirms the rights and freedoms owed to all people in the UK and provides robust protection for these. It's important to our legal system, our constitution, and the protection of individual liberties.

The Human Rights Act is a subtle and carefully crafted legal instrument.

It contains mechanisms which work together to strike the right balance between the judiciary, executive and parliament, and between the national legal order and the European Court of Human Rights.

This results in a framework that upholds our constitutional balance of powers, protects the rule of law, and ensures access to justice without delay in the domestic courts.

There is significant evidence that shows the value of the Human Rights Act. We do not believe it needs to be amended.

Significant change would risk disrupting the delicate balance that has been struck. It could undermine the act’s purpose of protecting fundamental rights and providing a way for people to seek a legal remedy when they believe their rights have been breached.

Improvements could be made in some areas to strengthen the existing framework without requiring legislative change.

Steps should be taken to improve public education and understanding of the protections provided by the Human Rights Act.

The review panel could consider whether judicial dialogue with the European Court of Human Rights could be enhanced by signing and ratifying Protocol 16 to the European Convention of Human Rights.

Clarification on whether the remedial order process can be used to amend the Human Rights Act itself would also be beneficial.

Next steps

The consultation closed on 3 March 2021.

Read our full response

The Independent Human Rights Act Review’s report was published in December 2021.

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

It made 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

Alongside the Independent Human Rights Act Review's report, the Ministry of Justice announced a government consultation seeking views on a number of additional proposals.

In March 2022, we responded to the government’s consultation on these proposed reforms to the Human Rights Act.

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