Doing the Right thing: Top lawyer warns against abandoning the Human Rights Act
Abandoning the Human Rights Act would leave UK citizens vulnerable and disempowered, according to a leading human rights lawyer.
Head of Human Rights at Slater and Gordon Kim Harrison argues that scrapping the legislation would damage the UK’s reputation internationally and erode basic protections.
Amid growing anti-EU sentiment she is keen to dispel some of the myths surrounding the Act and make the case for its retention.
In an article for House Magazine she writes: “Human rights legislation protects some of society’s most vulnerable including children, victims of sexual assault and human trafficking, the elderly and disabled.”
The basis of the legislation was conceived in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, with Britain playing a central role in the creation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This is a contribution, Ms Harrison suggests, of which “we should be proud… this is part and parcel of our own tradition and history of defending and protecting individuals’ rights which stretches back to the Magna Carta.”
The Human Rights Act incorporated the European Convention into domestic law in 1998 and guarantees British citizens such fundamental entitlements as the right to life, a fair trial and not to be tortured.
Despite suggestions by some political figures that the legislation undermines British law, in fact it expressly preserves parliamentary sovereignty.
British courts are able to make a ‘declaration of incompatibility’ with the HRA, preventing a change in the law, and over which the UK parliament has the final say.
Scrapping the Act could, Ms Harrison argues, result in British citizens having to go the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg more rather than less.
Whilst she concedes that it has weaknesses, the Human Rights lawyer is adamant that the legislation is a force for good which must be protected.
She concludes: “The Human Rights Act is not perfect but is has made a positive impact on many lives and its very existence says a huge amount about Britain. What we stand to lose without it is worrying – the fundamentals of human dignity and a vital check and balance on the state’s power against the individual.”
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