British Academy report on ‘Human rights and the UK constitution’

In ‘Human rights and the UK constitution’, Colm O’Cinneide examines how human rights are currently protected within the UK’s unwritten constitutional system.

Published by the British Academy in September 2012, ‘Human rights and the UK constitution’ considers the relationship between the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the UK courts and Parliament; the role the Human Rights Act 1998 plays in protecting individual rights; and how proposals to alter the existing legal framework would affect how human rights are protected within the UK.

Major points include:

  • Elected politicians have the power to opt out of the ECHR; however any attempt to ‘de-incorporate’ Convention rights from UK law would give rise to serious legal complications;
  • A new Bill of Rights could expand human rights protection beyond that offered by the ECHR. However, this would likely extend the role of the judiciary in protecting rights – contrary to the concerns of critics of the Human Rights Act;
  • Any expanded Bill of Rights should be the product of a process that permits disadvantaged groups to participate contribute;
  • Currently UK human rights law appears to be compatible with constitutional principles and strike a defensible balance between respect for democracy and protection of individual rights.

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