The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights announces the publication of its latest Bonavero Report 2/2021, "The UK Human Rights Act: A Successful Innovation - A Submission to the United Kingdom Independent Human Rights Act Review Panel", authored by Professor Kate O'Regan (Director of the Bonavero Institute), Professor Rosalind Dixon (Director of the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at University of New South Wales, and co-President of the International Society of Public Law) and Joshua Aird (PhD Candidate and teaching fellow at University of New South Wales).
The Report was prepared as a submission to the Independent Human Rights Act Review established by the United Kingdom government in December 2020 to investigate the Human Rights Act, 1998 (the HRA) which incorporated the rights set out in the European Convention of Human Rights (the ECHR) into British Law. The terms of reference of the review made clear that the government remains committed to upholding its obligations under the ECHR and that the review was aimed at investigating “how the HRA is working in practice and whether any change is needed”. To do so, the review was asked to focus primarily on two themes: the relationship between the European Court of Human Rights and the UK courts under the HRA, and the impact of the HRA on the relationship between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature.
The Report considers both those themes. It observes that the HRA has been successful in protecting and promoting the enjoyment of human rights in the UK and has allowed UK litigants to seek relief in UK courts, thus allowing the UK courts to develop a principled rights jurisprudence responsive to the context of the UK. The Report concludes that the structure of sections 2, 3 and 4 of the HRA have been a success. They fit well within the existing constitutional framework in the UK, including its international obligations under the ECHR. The Report does note that if there is a drawback in the system, it lies in the inability of a UK cours to provide relief to successful litigants in circumstances where the court issues a declaration of incompatibility. Dissatisfied litigants, of course, retain their right to seek relief in Strasbourg. However, the Report also concludes that although there may be ways to address this drawback, none will provide a perfect solution. The scheme was designed to ensure that Parliament is the senior partner in the relationship between the legislature, executive and judiciary, and so it is Parliament that bears the primary responsibility for ensuring that rights are protected. Section 4 of the HRA reflects this scheme.
The Report can be accessed by clicking on the image below. To access our previous reports, please visit the Bonavero Reports Series webpage.