In his speech to the Tory party conference today, the prime minister David Cameron pledged to get rid of the Human Rights Act #HRA and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. Problem? Where is it? A bit like Lewis Carroll’s snark, it is often spoken of but never actually seen. It has been talked about off and on for around 7 years now but it still hasn’t seen the light of day.
Second problem: how will it be any different to the HRA it will replace? It will presumably contain many of the clauses about fair trials, no torture, knowing what one is accused of, no slavery, arbitrary arrest etc. etc. that are contained in the HRA.
It is likely that the ire is directed at some individual cases which get the tabloid press in a stew such as Abu Qatada. The issue here of course was that he could not be deported because it was likely that either, he would be tortured or, evidence gained by torture would be used against him.
The problem is the same as it always has been with the act. It is European and in the fevered atmosphere of anti-Europeanism stoked up by Ukip, anything from Europe is a bad thing. The second problem is the media – or sections of it – who dislike the act and print all manner of misinformation and disinformation about its rulings. They don’t like it because the question of privacy has a higher standing under the act than they would like. As we have seen with News International – and are beginning to see with the Mirror Group newspapers – newspapers are sold by penetrating the private lives of the famous by a variety of dubious and illegal means.
The benefits of the act, such as that reported today of people in Essex who were able to use it to take action against the police, are seldom reported.
Unless we pull out of the Council of Europe, we will still be subject to the rulings of the European Court. It is strange to report that with all the venom and anger directed against Strasbourg nearly 99% of cases applications against the UK are struck out. That is because we have good legal systems here. The HRA was brought in to stop the trail of people having to go to Europe to get justice.