Commission on a Bill of Rights for the UK

This brief document is designed to supplement our first response to the Commission’s earlier consultation.

In summary, JUSTICE considers that:

  1. Fundamental rights and liberties must be protected and respected by each of the institutions of Government in the UK. Individuals should have a right to an effective remedy in our domestic courts for violation of those rights and, in practice should enjoy each of the substantive human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the UN treaties to which the UK is a party;
  2. The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998) performs the core functions of a bill of rights for the UK;
  3. We are not persuaded that there is any evidence-based argument for change to the substantive and procedural guarantees in the Act, or that the current debate about a bill of rights for the UK is appropriate, at this time;
  4. Minimum criteria must be satisfied in order to justify a constitutional change of the magnitude proposed:
    i. Any Bill of Rights must be based on a broad consensus, not just of lawyers and politicians, but also the public at large;
    ii. The process of agreeing any such Bill, and its content, must reflect the increasingly devolved nature of the UK;
    iii. It must guarantee the rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and should be compatible with the international obligations of the UK;
    iv. The key enforcement mechanisms of the HRA set a minimum bar for the protection of rights and should be replicated in any other mechanism for the protection of rights in the UK;
    v. Any statement of responsibilities or duties must not detract from the protection of human rights; and
    vi. The scope for reform should not be oversold.
  5. In the current political climate, we are not persuaded that these criteria can be fulfilled.