• Freya Brock

The Independent Review of the Human Rights Act- What you need to know!

A quick blog detailing everything you need to know about the Independent Review of the Human Rights Act (IRHRA) and some quick links to BIHR's easy guides to understanding IRHRA and how to get involved.

On the 20th of January, I attended the Human Rights Consortium Scotland Roundtable webinar which focused on the Independent Review of the Human Rights Act (IRHRA). Key speaker of this event was Prof Nicole Busby, Professor in Human Rights, Equality and Justice at University of Glasgow. Busby led discussions through a detailed talk on the recent Government commissioned IRHRA and the possible implications it could have on Scotland.

In December 2020, the Conservative Government announced that an independent review of the Human Rights Act was going be undertaken which may result in changes to human rights provision across the UK. The implications of this review are not yet known as the Panel tasked with undertaking the review has yet to make recommendations to the UK Government on any proposed reform which will be based on the evidence presented to it.

What will the review look at?.....

Two ‘key themes’ outlined in the review’s Terms of Reference are identified as being:

  • The relationship between domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

  • The impact of the HRA on the relationship between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature

The independent Panel will be chaired by former Court of Appeal Judge Sir Peter Gross and its membership consists of distinguished legal practitioners and academics: Simon Davis; Baroness O’Loan; Sir Stephen Laws QC; Lisa Giovannetti QC; Professor Maria Cahill; Alan Bates. Specific Scottish expertise is provided by Professor Tom Mullen who is an expert in Scots Constitutional and Administrative Law at the University of Glasgow.

The Panel will examine a range of data and evidence in drafting its report which is due in Summer 2021. Following the consideration of the Lord Chancellor, the Government will publish a response. A public call for evidence was launched in January 2021.

What is the Human Rights Act 1998?....

The Human Rights Act 1998, sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to. The Act incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), solidifying ECHR's civil and political rights into domestic British law.

The EHCR protects the human rights of people in the 47 member states of Council of Europe (CoE) which is an international organization formed in 1949 in response to the atrocities of World War Two. The CoE is completely separate from the European Union (EU). The rights set out in the HRA provide minimum Human Rights standards across Europe which were agreed by the UK and other countries post-war era.

In Scotland, human rights are given additional protection through the Scotland Act 1998 which implements the devolution settlement. The HRA is embedded into the Scotland Act which means that the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament are prevented from acting inconsistently with the Convention. The repeal of, or substantial amendment to, the Human Rights Act would therefore undermine the current devolution settlement.

The HRA is a fundamental piece of legislation which currently protects rights such as the right to life, the right to a fair trial and the right not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Challenging this piece of legislation at a time of such uncertainty, in regards to Brexit and Covid-19 could have detrimental impacts on the most vulnerable people in society. Instead of challenging this legislation, we could build on the existing foundations and look towards making human rights more accessible than they currently are today.

What you can do?....

The Review recently launched for a call for evidence from the public which is supposed to look at 20 years of the HRA in operation. It is vital that people contribute to this evidence from their experiences of the Human Rights Act.

The British Institute of Human Rights have made understanding the the review and how to respond easy through their quick guides which have been linked throughout this blog. Everything you need to know can also be found on their website here.

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