JOINT

Human Rights: attitudes to enforcement: Submit your views

04 December 2017

Joint Committee on Human Rights launches an inquiry into factors which may impede individuals from using the UK's human rights framework effectively.

The United Kingdom has a proud tradition of respect for human rights.

Those rights are supported by political parties, and such rights have long been an integral part of common law, as well as being enshrined in statute by the Human Rights Act 1998.

But however much rights may be recognised in the legal framework, they are only valuable if they are enforceable. Effective human rights enforcement requires judicial independence; access to resources; a fearless legal profession and the confidence to stand up for rights in all parts of society.

There can be barriers to achieving a culture which understands and respects human rights and practical barriers to those who wish to enforce their legal rights. 

In this wide-ranging inquiry, the Joint Committee on Human Rights is calling for evidence on factors which may impede individuals from using the UK's human rights framework effectively. 

Committee interests

The Committee is particularly interested in the following areas:

Judicial independence

Among other things, judicial independence depends on a shared understanding of the proper role of the courts, of Government and of Parliament. In the context of human rights:  

  • Has the Government been too ready to criticise the courts in ways which affect judicial independence?
  • Have some judicial decisions gone beyond purposive construction to change the law in ways which Parliament did not intend? 
  • Has the concept of the ECHR as a “living instrument” meant that issues which are properly matters for Parliament are dealt with in litigation? 
  • Is the principle of subsidiarity that underpins the European Convention sufficiently respected and working effectively, and has the Brighton Declaration produced an improvement in the way cases are handled at national or Strasbourg level?

Access to resources

  • Is there the access to justice needed to enforce human rights?
  • What effect has the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) had on the ability of individuals to access the courts as a means of enforcing their human rights? 
  • What are the implications of the recent Supreme Court judgement on fees in employment tribunals?

Legal Independence

  • To enforce human rights it is sometimes necessary for cases to be brought against the Government itself.  When the Government is a defendant does it seek to use its power to interfere with legal professionals taking cases?

Cultural factors

  • Is there sufficient understanding (in Government, media and general public) of the role of the rule of law in ensuring that human rights are respected?
  • Is criticism from some parts of the media a problem or a healthy manifestation of free speech?
  • Is there a perception that there are some rights which are not given sufficient weight compared with others and does this affect willingness to attempt to enforce those rights? 

Get involved

You can submit evidence using the written submission form. The deadline is Friday 9 February 2018.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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