The Human Rights Act 1998 details how the UK complies with and implements the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights. All public authorities have a positive obligation to ensure that respect for human rights is at the core of their work. This means acting in ways that positively reinforce the principles of the Human Rights Act 1998.
The Act makes it unlawful for a public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with a Convention Right. This covers all aspects of the public authority's activities - in their day-to-day work staff have a crucial human rights role to play, not only in ensuring that they always act in accordance with the Convention rights, but also in supporting a positive attitude to human rights issues throughout the community.
Human rights are a complex and broad issue, however the most important aspects of the legislation are summarised in the table below.
|Main Articles|| |
|Article 2||Right to life|
|Article 3||Prohibition of torture|
|Article 4||Prohibition of slavery and forced labour|
|Article 5||Right to liberty and security (subject to a UK derogation relating to the situation in Northern Ireland)|
|Article 6||Right to a fair trial|
|Article 7||No punishment without law|
|Article 8||Right to respect for private and family life|
|Article 9||Freedom of thought, conscience and religion|
|Article 10||Freedom of expression|
|Article 11||Freedom of assembly and association|
|Article 12||Right to marry|
|Article 14||Prohibition of discrimination|
|Article 16||Restrictions on political activity of aliens|
|Article 17||Prohibition of abuse of rights|
|Article 18||Limitation on use of restrictions on rights|
|The First Protocol|| |
|Article 1||Protection of property|
|Article 2||Right to education|
|Article 3||Right to free elections|
|The Thirteenth Protocol|| |
|Article 1 ||Abolition of the death penalty|
The most direct, obvious link between human rights legislation and the commitments of the council in its Strategic Equality Plan comes in Article 14:-
Article 14: Prohibition of discrimination
The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
In the application of the Convention rights, you have the right not to be treated differently because of your race, religion, sex, political views or any other status, unless this can be justified objectively. Everyone must have equal access to Convention rights, whatever their status.
The Articles within the Human Rights legislation can be divided into categories depending on whether they have been accepted totally and without reservation, or if they are restricted or qualified in some specific way. These are referred to as absolute, limited or qualified rights.
- Absolute rights - These are rights of the European Convention on Human Rights that have been adopted fully. These rights are not limited and they cannot be infringed no matter how necessary it might seem to do so. The absolute rights are Articles 2, 3, 4 and 7.
- Limited rights - Certain rights of the European Convention on Human Rights are limited in the UK for specific reasons. There is a right to liberty for instance, however this is not absolute as it must be limited by the powers of the police to arrest someone. The limited rights are Articles 5, 6 and 12.
- Qualified rights - These are rights that could be infringed upon if there is a specific legitimate aim - in interests of national security, public safety etc. The infringement must be properly regulated by the law and must be necessary in a democratic society. This latter concept means the interference with the right must be a proportionate response to the legitimate aim. If the aim can be achieved by a less intrusive method then that method must be used instead. The qualified rights are Articles 8, 9, 10, 11, 14 and Protocol 1 Article 1.