Legal Information Centre

14 August 2008 by Mary Heaney

Human Rights

  • Gagged man
The Human Rights Act 1998 came in to force in October 2000. Although some have called it a chancer's charter and it is often used as a political football. Here is some help on the legal issues concerning human rights....

The Human Rights Act 1998 came in to force in October 2000. Although some have called it a chancer’s charter and it is often used as a political football, fewer cases than expected have been brought under it. Here is some useful legal help on human rights.




Basically, the Human Rights Act:

- makes it unlawful for a public authority to violate the rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, unless, because of an Act of Parliament, it had no choice.

- declares that all UK legislation and legal information should be given a meaning that fits with those rights, if that is possible. If a court says that it is not possible, it will be up to Parliament to decide.

- Cases can be dealt with in a UK court or tribunal. It is not necessary to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.



The rights in the Act are:

- Article 2: Right to Life

- Article 3: Prohibition on Torture

- Article 4: Prohibition on slavery and forced labour

- Article 5: Right to liberty and security

- Article 6: Right to a fair trial

- Article 7: No punishment without law

- Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life

- Article 9: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

- Article 10: Right to freedom of expression

- Article 11: Freedom of assembly and association

- Article 12: Right to marry and found a family

- Article 14: Prohibition on discrimination

- Article 1 of the First Protocol: Protection of property

- Article 2 of the First Protocol: Right to education

- Article 3 of the First Protocol: Right to free elections


A person who considers that a public authority has breached its Convention rights, or is proposing to, can bring court proceedings against that public authority. A person can also raise a breach of their Convention rights as a defence in any court proceedings against them. In either case the person must be a ‘victim’ of the breach or potential breach, that is, someone who is directly affected by it.


When a person whose rights have been breached brings court proceedings against a public authority under the Act, he or she will be seeking a declaration that the public authority has breached their Convention rights or is proposing to do so. And if that breach is still going on, they will also want an order from the court that the public authority should stop acting in that way that breaches their Convention rights. (The Act does not make it possible to take proceedings against another person or a private body for a ‘breach’ of Convention rights. But the Act will have an effect on court proceedings between private bodies or individuals. This is because the courts themselves are public authorities under the Act and are also required to interpret existing laws and to develop the law in a way that is compatible with Convention rights.)

Although a victim of a breach can claim compensation, the courts have already made it clear that it is not always appropriate for them to award compensation.

What happens when you take an action?

When can I use the Human Rights Act?

What are the rights in the Act?

Where are cases heard?

What power does the Human Rights Act have?

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