When the Chairman of the Equality & Human Rights Commission (E&HRC) says the Human Rights Act has fallen into disrepute and is being used in ways which are “bonkers” you’d think the government would listen.
Trevor Phillips says the HRA is being used to defend “unpopular minorities” and has almost become the exclusive property of criminals, suspected terrorists, and illegal immigrants, to the exclusion of everyone else including victims of crime.
The most popular piece of the legislation deployed by human rights lawyers is Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life
Paragraph 1 says “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”. This is the paragraph used by foreign criminals who have delayed deportation long enough to start a family here and was used 99 times in the last quarter of 2010.
Less often referred to is paragraph 2 which says: “There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
I can’t understand why courts don’t give this equal weight when reaching their decisions as it is clear that where public safety or prevention of crime is concerned a public authority can interfere with the right described in paragraph 1. So repeat offenders amongst others must surely fall into this category.
The only conclusion you can draw from this is that the prosecutors don’t want to use this paragraph or that judges are too liberal regarding human rights – except when it comes to the majority of us. And of course there are plenty of lawyers making money out of this.
The government has said it wants to repeal this part of the HRA but the Liberal Democrats are living up to their name in opposing any such changes.
The good news however is that over the next 5 years Trevor Phillips says that the E&HR Commission is to focus on issues most relevant to the lives of ordinary people so as to achieve a fair balance for everyone.