The Labour government in 1998 introduced the Human Rights Act (HRA) whose aim was to “bring rights home”. Central to this constitutional reform was for all three arms of the state (the executive, legislature and judiciary) to play a role in protecting human rights. The HRA brought in a number of major innovations:
- Public authorities must uphold human rights. The aim of this provision was to encourage all public bodies to respect and protect fundamental human rights in their policies and practices to avoid unnecessary litigation. But if a public authority was found to have acted in violation of an ECHR right, the victim could bring a claim in a local UK court;
- All individuals living under the jurisdiction of the UK government may claim remedies for breaches of their rights. While previously, only citizens had rights to seek remedy, under the HRA, all individuals have the ability to claim remedies and public authorities can be judicially reviewed where they have not respected fundamental rights;
- The courts must interpret legislation in line with human rights. A reading ‘compatible’ with the ECHR is required “so far as it is possible to do so”;
- The courts may review acts of Parliament. This was not possible before the HRA. If a higher court determines that primary legislation does not comply with fundamental human rights it may make a ‘declaration of incompatibility’. This does not affect any law’s ongoing operation or enforcement nor is it binding on the parties. However, the impetus is then on Parliament to respond; and
- The Government must assess whether new legislation is compatible with human rights. A statement must be made in writing and published for each new bill to assess whether it is compatible with the ECHR.
Excerpt from: lchr.org.uk