Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Reforming the European Court on Human Rights: the Brighton Declaration

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The question of the relationship between the English Legal System and in particular the UK Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights has been generating a lot of political heat in recent months – much of it deriving from the decision in the case Abu Qatada – who the British Government was to deport to Jordan for trial, but who – it is feared – may have evidence obtained by torture used against him. The political fallout from this very controversial case has been significant, with many people demanding that the UK no longer acknowledge the jurisdiction of the European Court.

By chance, in April 2012 – during the UK Presidency of the Council of Europe – a conference was held in Brighton designed to consider proposals for the reform of the court. In the event, the ‘nuclear option’ of the UK withdrawing from the Convention was averted and instead a number of reforms were agreed, designed to rebalance the relationships between Strasbourg and national supreme courts.

In outline, the Brighton Declaration does the following things:

  • Makes proposals for amending the Convention to include the principles of subsidiarity and the margin of appreciation – this should give more power to domestic courts t0 decide matters without intervention from Strasbourg;
  • Proposes amending the Convention to tighten the admissibility criteria- so that trivial cases can be thrown out and the focus of the Court can be serious abuses
  • Reducing the time limit for claims from six months to four
  • Improving the selection process for judges
  • Setting out a roadmap for further reform.

The full text of the Brighton Declaration is at

It will be realise that while what has been achieved may be useful first steps, the final implementation of the reform proposals will take some time to complete.


Written by lwtmp

May 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Chapter 3, Chapter 8

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