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What is the “Human Rights Act 1998”?

This Act is of enormous significance. It defines the Convention rights and Protocols to the extent that they are meant to apply in domestic law.

Section 4 empowers the higher courts to make a declaration of incompatibility where in any proceedings dealing with primary legislation the court is satisfied that some provision is incompatible with Convention Rights. There are six courts that have this power:-

  1. Supreme Court
  2. Judicial committee of the Privy Council
  3. Court of Appeal
  4. High Court
  5. Courts Martial Appeal Court
  6. Scottish High Court

Under Section 3.6, it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right. The term “public authority” includes courts, the police, prison service, government departments and local authorities.

In terms of remedy, the limitation period is basically one year. There is power to award damages or such other relief as is just in the circumstances.

Section 4 respects the right to life, liberty and security of person. The death penalty is abolished. The Act prohibits torture, inhuman and degrading treatment; slavery. The Act provides for a fair trial and no punishment without law. It provides for respect for private and family life. Similarly for freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It also respects freedom of expression and decries discrimination. It therefore embodies a number of concepts designed to do as the Act suggests – provide and protect Human Rights.

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