The Human Rights Act turns 20!


Today is the 20th anniversary of the Human Rights Act coming into force. Why is this so important? What does this have to do with feminism you might ask?

The Human Rights Act (HRA) is a fundamental piece of legislation and arguably the closest thing we have to a written constitution. The HRA transposed, into domestic law, the rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR was created by the Council of Europe (not to be confused with the European Union) and came into force in 1953. The HRA was enacted by Tony Blair's Labour government in an attempt to "bring rights home" and this meant that instead of UK citizens having to travel to Strasbourg to have their case heard before the European Court of Human Rights, the courts in the UK were able to hear these cases. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has made it quite clear that their intention is to eventually get rid of the HRA. Due to the fact that, unlike most countries, the UK does not have a codified constitution, the HRA can be repealed and thus dismantled with a majority of one. That is a terrifying thought and isn't just an issue for women but an issue for everyone.

One example of where the HRA has been fundamental in protecting women's rights is Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v DSD and Ano [2018] which was decided by the Supreme Court. This case was brought by two victims of John Worboys, the black cab driver who committed over 100 sexual offences on women between 2002 and 2008. Two survivors of Worboys' attack encountered a series of catastrophic errors by the police in handling the case. In one case, Worboys actually took the victim to the police station and the police failed to even make a record. The catalogue of errors did not end there. Since the tort avenue was not available to these women they brought a case against the metropolitan police under Article 3 of the HRA: freedom from torture and inhumane or degrading treatment. The importance of this case cannot be overstated. The ruling meant that "the police must investigate rape and violence against women and girls properly; failing to do so breaks the law" - End Violence Against Women. 


Here is a link to the Articles contained within the Human Rights Act on the UK Government website: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/schedule/1


Here is a link to the European Convention on Human Rights: https://www.echr.coe.int/documents/convention_eng.pdf

 

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