Replacing Human Rights Act will weaken protections, say peers and MPs – The Guardian

Posted: April 15, 2022 at 12:53 pm

Dominic Raabs proposal to replace the Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights is not evidence-based and will diminish protections for individuals, MPs and peers have said.

The criticisms by the joint committee on human rights (JCHR) are the latest directed at the planned changes, which the justice secretary has said will counter wokery and political correctness and expedite the deportation of foreign criminals.

In a report published on Wednesday, the committee says that by placing greater restrictions on who can bring a human rights claim or reducing damages owed to a claimant because they are perceived as undeserving, the government would contravene the fundamental principle that human rights are universal.

While Raab has said the changes will strengthen free speech the liberty that guards all of our other freedoms the JCHR claims it will weaken other rights, against which it is currently balanced, such as the right to privacy and to a fair trial.

The JCHR chair, Harriet Harman, said: The governments case that human rights legislation is in serious need of reform is not proven. There is nothing in their consultation that would serve to strengthen the protections we currently have and much that would weaken them.

In many cases what is described as the strengthening of rights is simply tweaking what is already protected, while at the same time making it harder for people to actually enforce their rights.

The committee found that the right to jury trial in the new bill of rights was symbolic as there would be no change to the current limit on jury trial in England and Wales for serious offences. It said fears that UK courts were taking decisions that should be made by parliament were unfounded, rendering obsolete any need for change.

The proposals, out for consultation until 19 April, would also weaken the current obligation for UK courts to take into account judgments from the European court of human rights (ECHR).

In response, the committee says the number of cases brought against the UK in Strasbourg since the Human Rights Act became law in 1998 has fallen. It adds that if, as a result of changes, UK courts diverged from established interpretations of convention rights, it would lead to lengthy and costly litigation and ironically more cases presided over by the ECHR.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: Our proposals will strengthen quintessentially British human rights, such as freedom of expression, while staying a party to the ECHR.

They will also prevent abuses of the system, adding a healthy dose of common sense and restore parliaments rightful role as the ultimate decision-maker on laws impacting the UK population.

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Replacing Human Rights Act will weaken protections, say peers and MPs - The Guardian

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