Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

A UK Bill of Rights? Commission appointed

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The Government has just announced the appointment of an Independent Commission to examine the case for the adoption of a UK Bill of Rights – which would effectively replace the Human Rights Act 1998.

The Human Rights legislation, and the role of the Supreme Court in interpreting the scope Convention rights, have been getting a hostile press and comment in Parliament recently. Two issues have hit the headlines: the question of whether prisoners should in some circumstances have the right to vote, and whether those registered on the sex offenders list should ever have the right to challenge a decision that they be on the list. Debate on both these issues seems to have been characterised by a fair degree of ignorance about what the Court was actually ruling. Their judgments were no way as apocalyptic as their critics were claiming. (By contrast, their judgements on the ability of local authority and social housing providers effectively to manage their estates – which are likely to have considerable financial implications for social landlords – have hardly been considered at all.)

In this context, the establishment of the Commission – with the clear instruction to build on the current position, rather than row back from it – is an important development. They will not report until end 2012, but I will keep an eye on developments here.

The terms of reference of the Commission are:

To investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in UK law, and protects and extend our liberties.

To examine the operation and implementation of these obligations, and consider ways to promote a better understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties.

To provide advice to the Government on the ongoing Interlaken process  (a separate process being run within the Council of Europe) to reform the Strasbourg court ahead of and following the UK’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.

To consult, including with the public, judiciary and devolved administrations and legislatures, and aim to report no later than by the end of 2012.

The members of the Commission can be found at
http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/newsrelease180311a.htm

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Written by lwtmp

March 21, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Chapter 3, Chapter 4

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