Britain’s Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) could be replaced with a ‘bill of rights’ under proposals unveiled by its Lord Chancellor this morning.
Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab said that the legislation would protect “quintessentially UK rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to trial by jury”.
It is also expected to bring in measures to curb challenges to deportation orders.
Raab said in the House of Commons today (14 December) that the proposals “reflect the government’s enduring commitment to liberty under the rule of law”.
The reforms will prevent serious criminals from relying on article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) to prevent deportation, Raab said, adding that such claims make up around 70% of all successful human-rights challenges by foreign-national offenders against deportation orders.
He said that the UK's independent judiciary and parliamentary sovereignty were the “cornerstone and foundations of our democracy”.
However, the government desired to “sharpen” the separation of powers by reforming the section 2 duty to take account of EU case law.
This, he said, “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 interpreting rights, Raab added.
“One of the consistent complaints we hear from the public is that human rights can be subject to abuse,” he said, justifying the proposal to introduce a permission stage for cases.
Government observers believe that the goal is to filter out “unmeritorious cases” early on, since a new “permissions stage” would require claimants to demonstrate that they have suffered a “significant disadvantage” before a human-rights claim could be heard in court.
The approach to remedies will also be reformed, so that the courts give “greater consideration to the behaviour of the claimant and wider public interest” when considering 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 said.
An independent review of the Human Rights Act recommended amending section 2 of the Human Rights Act, which requires British courts to “take into account” of EU decisions.
“This has indirectly resulted in the supremacy of the UK Supreme Court being undermined by Strasbourg decisions,” the paper states.
It is proposed that British courts must first consider whether a human-rights issue can be resolved domestically before considering European Convention rights or EU case law.
On trial by jury, the paper cites the Magna Carta and the 1689 Bill of Rights, proposing that “there may be scope to recognise trial by jury in the bill of rights”.
On freedom of expression, the bill of rights would “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 also ensures the protection of journalists' sources.