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Human Rights in the UK

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 13 Sep 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Human Rights In The Uk

Citizens and residents of the UK have enjoyed certain, fundamental human rights for hundreds of years. The Human Rights Act 1998 enshrined many of these rights in law.

The European Convention on Human Rights

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) sets out the human rights that are believed to be common to all. These range from the right to life and the right not to be tortured to the right to an education and to own property. The rights are set out as numbered Articles and include the right to life, to freedom of expression and to a fair trial.

Absolute, Limited and Qualified Human Rights under the European Convention

Not all rights contained in the ECHR are absolute. This means that there may be situations where the surrounding circumstances take precedence to a particular human right.

Some human rights are stated to be absolute. These rights are considered to be so fundamental to a civilised, humane society that nothing can justify overriding them. These include the right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment and the ban on slavery.

Other human rights, such as the right to liberty, are limited under certain, specific circumstances. For example, it may permissible for a person to be deprived of their liberty if they have been lawfully arrested or have been convicted of a criminal offence.

A qualified right may be superseded if there is a basis to do so in law, in order to achieve an aim specifically provided for in the relevant Article or if it is necessary to do so in a democratic society. For example, under the Human Rights Act an individual has the right to respect for their home. However, if the individual falls behind with their rent or mortgage payments the landlord or mortgage company’s legal right to repossess the property is likely to take precedence to the individual’s human right.

The Human Rights Act 1998

Specific legislation is required before most European law can be implemented in the UK. The Human Rights Act 1998 is derived from the ECHR and gives it legal effect in the UK. The Human Rights Act came into force on 2nd October 2000.

The Application of Human Rights Law in the UK

The implementation of the Human Rights Act has had a wide ranging impact on life in the UK. When the Act first came into force some individuals tried to rely on it as a defence or excuse in many different situations. Some defendants in court cases claimed that their human rights had been or would be breached if the case continued.

The ECHR itself specifically states that protection of a particular human right may not always be the overriding consideration. Over the years the courts have decided many cases where Human Rights Act issues have been raised. The courts have traditionally taken a pragmatic view when deciding such issues. It is fair to say that the Act has not provided as much of a defence as some people would have liked. However, there have been many instances where implementation of the Human Rights Act has provided a valuable safeguard not just for one individual but for all those who may find themselves in the same situation.

Observing, Respecting and Enforcing Human Rights

Whilst individuals have the right to have their human rights protected they must also respect the human rights of others. Further, an individual who is exercising their human rights should not do so in such a way as to infringe another person’s human rights. For example, the right to freedom of expression should not be exercised in such a way that it might interfere with another person’s right to life.

If an individual feels that an organisation or government body has not respected their human rights they should start by raising it with the organisation in question. If they are still not satisfied with the way they have been treated they may wish to consider taking legal action against the organisation. This is never a course of action to be embarked on lightly and proper legal advice should be taken first. Cases based on human rights law can be complicated and there is no guarantee of success. Even if a case is won there may be little practical benefit to be gained.

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I am a European extended family member living in the UK. Can I sponsor a non-EU citizen to UK as a spouse?
JT - 13-Sep-16 @ 3:35 PM
Hello, Sirs, I got my British citizenship two years ago. This is about my husband, he came here with a spouse visa from the philippines.@in 2006 October. We were living happily but before he is about to apply for Indefinite visa, we had an argument a d he left. So I did not have time to apply for his indefinite, but now we are back together again and I am scared to call The Home Office. Can this be resolved by lawyer?. I had my last baby born here and he is now 3 in September but when we had argument I took him back to the Philippines because I had to work. Please help I want to take my baby back here because he haveBritish passport and so my family are here again. I would appreciate your help.
Y - 21-Aug-13 @ 3:00 PM
i applied before two years to regularize my immigration status in UK but up till now have not received any decision from home office.they must take initiative either to give amnesty or to refuse the stay and deport them.my question is what international organizations are doing for helping the immigrants their rights enshrined under European convention of human rights.why they are not making policy to resolve the issue of backlog which has risen now tomore than 50,0000
shaz - 16-Aug-13 @ 7:01 PM
i ama born uk citizen currently living on public funds,however my partner is an illegal immigrant.We are trying to sort his immigration status out but were worried about my access to public funds..will i still be entitled to them we have one child together and i have four others it would be impossible for me to be able to support us all if i would go back to work...i would really appreciate some feedback,thanks
michey - 4-Jun-12 @ 2:28 PM
What is the right of a parent who deported due to convection from the United Kingdom and living in Pakistan, whose childern are living in the United Kingdom? can he meet with her childern in the United Kingdom or not? can a convicted person have no any human rights?
urooj - 15-May-12 @ 3:24 PM
As you say, human rights may be overrided by other considerations, e.g. a criminal will be denied his rights by being sent to prison.Also the Act states that matters of national security etc. may take precedence.Why then do judges ignore the issue of national security when not allowing foreign criminals to be deported?
peejay - 25-May-11 @ 1:25 PM
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