New British Bill of Rights will threaten fundamental rights and freedoms 

Article by Fair Trials

Today, the UK government introduced plans for a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. The Bill, which government claims will “strengthen freedom of speech and curb bogus human rights claims” will have a far reaching and deeply concerning impact on criminal justice rights in the country, in fact removing more rights than it will introduce.

“It’s perverse for the government to claim that it’s defending our freedoms and preserving the UK’s commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights, when all it’s doing is removing human rights as a cornerstone of our constitution and our legal system” says Bruno Min, Fair Trials Legal Director.

“Contrary to what the government suggests, human rights obligations are not optional, nor should they be trumped by political whims. The Bill of Rights threatens the rights and freedoms of everyone, and it must be stopped at all costs.” 

Based on a press release from the Ministry of Justice, the Bill will:

  • Ensure that courts cannot interpret UK laws in line with the ECHR where they appear to conflict with one another;
  • Make it optional for UK courts to choose whether or not to follow decisions by the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Remove human rights protections from foreign nationals convicted of crimes by making it easier to deport people who have strong family ties to the UK;
  • Prevent courts from placing certain ‘costly’ obligations on public authorities to protect human rights and limit the circumstances in which current obligations apply, for example, police forces having to notify gang members of threats towards them from other gangs.
  • Spell out that UK courts are not bound by interim measures from the European Court of Human Rights that can temporarily prevent extraditions and deportations to ensure that people’s human rights claims can be considered properly.

Min added “It’s deeply worrying that the government’s primary justification for undermining the UK’s commitment to the ECHR is its apparent disdain for criminal suspects, convicted people, and foreign nationals – people who are amongst the most vulnerable to political scapegoating and most in need of human rights protections. Human rights are for everyone, and it’s no business of the government to pick and choose who gets to benefit from them.”

On Tuesday, Fair Trials joined with Liberty and 150 other organisations to urge Justice Secretary Dominic Raab to ensure there is sufficient pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill.