Dominic Raab’s plans to reform the Human Rights Act have been attacked as ‘an unashamed power grab’ from a government trying to ‘put themselves above the law’. Writing for the Times today, the justice minister outlines proposals to reform the legislation whilst committing to staying within the European Convention on Human Rights.
Raab cites the example of ‘a dangerous criminal’ frustrating deportation on human rights grounds who had been convicted of battery against his partner and paid no maintenance towards his child. ‘As a result of the way the Human Rights Act (HRA) has promoted such expansive interpretations of article 8, those claims make up about 70% of all successful human rights challenges made by foreign national offenders against the deportation orders,’ Raab writer. ‘The fault lies with the HRA – not the judges. We need to restore some balance in common sense to the system.’
This plan is an unashamed power grab from a Gov that wants to put themselves above the law.
The #HumanRightsAct makes rights real. It protects us from the State. It keeps power in check.
They are literally rewriting the rules so they become untouchable https://t.co/XPuUE5yE6q
— Liberty (@libertyhq) December 14, 2021
Raab promises to draw ‘a clearer demarcation’ of the separation of powers between courts and parliament. ‘The calibre of our judges is globally renowned, and we should be confident in the UK‘s tradition of rights rather than importing a continental European model,’ he writes. ‘We will end the duty of UK courts to take into account the caseload of the Strasbourg Court.’ Instead he promises to ‘reassert democratic control over the expansion of human rights – which is a matter for elected lawmakers and parliament. This would end the practice of the courts, required by section three of the HRA, to alter legislation, which is parliament’s job.’ He also promised to ‘rebalance the system’ by making clearer that ‘rights come with responsibilities’. To that end, he proposes a permission stage for human rights claims ‘so applicants have to demonstrate they have suffered a significant disadvantage before proceeding to sift out spurious and a meritorious claims earlier’.
The Law Society cautioned the government to make sure that any reforms of the HRA were ‘backed by evidence, not driven by political rhetoric’. ‘The powers government purports to introduce for the most part already exist,’ said its president Stephanie Boyce. ‘British judges deliver British justice based on British laws. UK courts do not, as government suggests, blindly follow case law from the European Court of Human Rights.’