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Raab reveals his ‘modern bill of rights’ plan

By December 19, 2021February 16th, 2022Government, People

The Human Rights Act 1998 would be succeeded with a ‘bill of rights’ under proposals revealed by the lord chancellor this week. The legislation will pay particular attention to ‘quintessentially UK rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to trial by jury’, Dominic Raab MP said. 

Launching a 118-page command paper on the plans, Raab stated that the proposals ‘reflect the government’s enduring commitment to liberty under the rule of law’.

The thoroughly trailed reforms seem to extend beyond those proposed by the Independent Review of the Human Rights Act that was introduced a year ago by Raab’s predecessor, Robert Buckland. However the government has supported the review’s suggestions for amending section 2 of the Human Rights Act, which calls for UK courts to ‘take into account’ Strasbourg rulings. This has ‘indirectly resulted in the supremacy of the UK Supreme Court being undermined by Strasbourg decisions,’ the paper details.

The government’s proposed course of action would necessitate UK courts to firstly consider whether a rights issue can be solved domestically, prior to considering European convention rights or Strasbourg case law. 

The paper cites Magna Carta and the 1689 Bill of Rights, suggesting that ‘there may be scope to recognise trial by jury in the bill of rights’. However this would apply only to the extent that the right to trial by jury is ordered by each UK jurisdiction.

On freedom of expression, the bill of rights intends to ‘provide more general guidance on how to balance the right to freedom of expression with competing rights’ rather than leaving this to the courts. The measure would make specific provision to ensure the protection of journalists’ references.  

The new measure will reinstall a ‘sharper focus on fundamental rights’, including confirmation that the ‘unmeritorious cases’ are sifted out at an earlier stage. A new ‘permissions stage’ would need claimants to verify that they have experienced a ‘significant disadvantage’ prior to a human rights claim being apprehended in court. 

Raab reported to the House of Commons that the reforms will inhibit dangerous criminals from relying on article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) to prevent deportation. Raab stated article 8 claims account for approximately 70% of all successful human rights disputes by foreign national offenders against deportation orders.

He detailed the UK’s independent judiciary and parliamentary sovereignty as the ‘cornerstone and foundations of our democracy’. In line with this, the government intends to ‘sharpen’ the division of powers by reforming the section 2 duty to take account of Strasbourg case law. This, he noted, ‘has at various times been interpreted as a duty to match Strasbourg jurisprudence which is neither necessary nor desirable’. The UK’s Supreme Court would be the ‘ultimate judicial arbiter’ for clarifying Convention rights in this country.

To justify the proposal to introduce a ‘permission stage’, Raab remarked ‘one of the consistent complaints we hear from the public is that human rights can be subject to abuse’.

The move to solutions will also be reformed in order for courts to provide ‘greater consideration to the behaviour of the claimant and wider public interest’ when deciding compensation. ‘It isn’t right that those who have broken the law can then reach out and claim human rights to claim large chunks of compensation at the taxpayer and wider public’s expense,’ Raab stated.

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