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Monday, 9 October, 2000, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Is the Human Rights Act right for the UK?
Is the Act right for the UK? Join the debate
The introduction of the Human Rights Act is being hailed by some as the most important British legal development for centuries.

UK citizens will no longer have to go directly to the European Court of Human Rights to seek redress, a situation that has existed since 1966, and now can go directly to the courts to ensure their basic human rights are met.

Home Secretary Jack Straw said the legislation would protect the weak against the "overweening power of the state".

But will this system work in the UK, with its history of unwritten laws and conventions? Will people take advantage of the new system by clogging up the courts with minor cases?


The Human Rights Act is a very dangerous law

Oswald Forster, England
The Human Rights Act is a very dangerous law. The very assumption upon which one could rely was that if something was not specifically made illegal, it was legal. The Human Rights Act claims to bring legal 'rights'. This is just a step on the way to a totalitarian state where everything is illegal unless one has a 'human right' to it. There seems no alternative but to hastily repeal this act, and the sections of the European Communities Act allowing foreign courts' interference in Britain.
Oswald Forster, England

All a bit confusing this, isn't it? On the one hand the Government is trying to limit the automatic right to trial by jury, in order to ease the pressure on the courts, but on the other hand they introduce this new bill which everyone thinks will have the opposite effect!
Philip S. Hall, UK

The unbelievable ignorance and stupidity of some people when it comes to human rights is quite astounding. The typical British attitude yet again comes out that greedy lawyers and busy courts are more important issues than celebrating an act which will go some way to preventing some of this century's worst man-made nightmares. After WWII and the Holocaust who in their right mind can oppose human rights?
Duncan Thorp, Scotland

Introducing the Human Rights Act into UK law is long overdue!

Richard Stott, Scotland
I see that the recent announcement to allow employers the right to pry into their employees' private mail and email is a likely contender for challenge under the new act. How two-faced can the Government be? Introducing the Human Rights Act into UK law is long overdue and obviously very necessary!
Richard Stott, Scotland

The Human Rights Act represents a strong step forward in Britain producing a written constitution. This is good because it enables anybody with access to it to know exactly what rights they have and free debate from constitutional ambiguity. However, neither the Government nor the British people must consider this Act or the European convention a definitive guide to human rights. Cases such as the Scottish couple wishing to determine the sex of their child indicates that, in Law, a rule is only that; the application of those laws requires interpretation, involving the courts. Do, however, these courts provide a free forum for the assertion of these rights?
James, UK

Thank goodness we have a reality check now. Only a few months ago the government pushed through the RIP bill, which would prevent people arrested under it to appeal and it reversed the burden of proof. Now we can feel slightly safer from any over zealous petty official.
Dean Jones, UK

We are members of the European Union, and the 21-Century. We deserve human rights surely

Chris Davies, Hong Kong
This legislation will help to support those people who are discriminated against by religious or political authorities, (which DOES happen in the UK with alarming regularity). Yes it will be a painful process. But, at the same time, it will make people sit up and realise just how badly they have been treated over the years. We are members of the European Union, and the 21-Century. We deserve human rights surely.
Chris Davies, Hong Kong

I believe that the human rights act is a massive step in the British judicial system. However, it requires careful monitoring to ensure that the intolerant is not tolerated.
Nai, England

if I invent a religion which requires me never to do any work, and to be supported by the state - would my "right" to practice my religion be upheld by the Act?

Dave Harvey, UK
The idea of some basic rights may be attractive, and if you are going to have such a convention, then it makes sense to have it at least within our own judicial system, rather than the notoriously anti-UK European courts.
However, what seems not be debated, is whether the actual "rights" enshrined in the act are sensible and reasonable, particularly in respect of "religion", which is not properly defined. For instance if I invent a religion which requires me never to do any work, and to be supported by the state - would my "right" to practice my religion be upheld by the Act? Is this request any less reasonable than those from other religions that happen to be older?
Dave Harvey, UK

The introduction of the human rights act is long overdue. It's about time this country stopped living in its dark past with laws dreamed by those with dubious personal interests at heart.. We are all human and we all have rights.
Gemma Brunswick, Britain

It took the European Court to rule that for a parent to beat a child with a garden rake was a violation of human rights and should be unlawful. No civilised person could oppose the Convention becoming part of our law.
Simon Dresner, UK

The purpose of the HRA is for the rationalising of justice and rights within the United Kingdom. The Act may be seen as a method to take small segments of power from the European Court and use it as a yard (or metre) stick by which we make judgements and determine if these judgements are just.
The determination of what merits case will as before have to be determined by the Courts. We must also view this Act as a code of conduct for existing Courts and the business carried out within them. They inclusion of Court rulings in other member states must also be taken into account where applicable.
The widespread mention of American style litigation is far from the truth as this Act deals with violation of rights by public authorities or bodies having roles and responsibilities as a public authority. This Act thus 'helps' protect us from the influence of imperfect Laws in an imperfect world, We are now truly European and part of 'the Club', let us play by the rules.
Chris Buckingham, UK

I think that this is just another example of Tony Blair and the Labour party pushing anything European on the British people with out finding out what the affect on the British people will be. Tony Blair should know by now that the people of Britain want to be in Europe for trade etc, but we don't want to be run by Europe.
William Dryden, UK

It is not some European way at control of the British Law, but a way to help people

Andrew Dickinson, UK
This Law Guarantee's Our rights. It is not some European way at control of the British Law, but a way to help people. Many of European neighbours already believe us xenophobes, and many of comments here make their fears true.
Andrew Dickinson, UK

The act has good intentions. The question is do the lawyers have good intentions. I suggest that all legal work carried out under this act should be paid for at the average wage. Will the lawyers agree, or are they preparing to ride the gravy train?
Brian, UK

With the recent conjoined twin trial here in the UK how would the weaker fair under the new act? I am being suspicious in thinking the courts decision was pushed through quickly to mean that the act wasn't in force at the time of the case. Food for thought!
Martin Jump, UK

Designed with good intentions, the Human Rights Act could well turn into a monster

Paul R, UK
Without doubt this is a significant piece of legislation. My concern with this Act is that it might be used more by those who abuse the system than by those with 'genuine' claims. The Act is so wide ranging that its effects will go well beyond what was envisaged by politicians, and it will take several years of test cases before the Act has been suitably refined. Designed with good intentions, the Human Rights Act could well turn into a monster.
Paul R, UK

Can we have a bill now that makes sure people exercise their responsibilities as much as their rights.
Steve, England

It's official now: Practice at home what you're preaching abroad
Ben, Netherlands

See, good things come from the continent as well!
Jose Fernandez, Netherlands

As a Journalist covering international affairs from United States to Caracas and some Latin American countries, I share the same arguments raised by the Tories. The Human Rights Act will overcrowd your courts with banal cases. The common law is enough good in order to resolve must human rights cases.
Julio Camino, Venezuela

The introduction of this Act is excellent. The law used to say you were innocent until proven guilty, recent motoring laws regarding speed cameras requires you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. This law restores rights, and hopefully those convicted without proof will be able to sue the government for lost earnings, higher insurance costs and defamation of character for wrongful conviction.
Gavin Pearson, USA

It will hurt, but you need the change!

Kristian, Canada
It is significant and it will make tremendous changes to the Common Law. It did so in Canada 20 years ago. But is will go along way to saving the UK from its own governments and towards restoring your almost non-existent civil liberties. It will hurt, but you need the change!
Kristian, Canada

I think that the adoption of this Act/law is a regressive step for Britain. English Law has always appeared largely based on common sense and remarkably free of double talk.
Having lived and worked in Canada for two extended periods, I have witnessed the decline of common sense in deference to the supposed law of individual right. The Canadian Court System has become severely overloaded and increasingly reluctant to take a stand on any issue that might conflict with its 1982 Charter. It is a Bad Move, England!
Patricia R. van der Veer, A Brit in Canada

I find that the problem we have at the moment is that everyone is interpreting what the Human Rights Act means instead of reading the document and understanding what it means. I can see initially a lot of cases that go to court which will then prove a precedent and things will calm down. The Act is nothing to worry about nor is it as great a step forward as most people think in terms of people's rights within the UK.
D Jackson, England

The Human Rights Bill presents a danger of turning Britain into a suing society. Government at all levels will find it more difficult to implement policy decisions as the state can effectively be taken to court. It is another example of the system being brought into disrepute from the forces beyond our shores.
Julian Papworth, UK

"Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no Constitution, no law, no court can save it. While it lies there, it needs no Constitution, no law, no court to save it." - Justice Learned Hand
Michael O'Brien, Canada

I don't believe there are people posting here who are opposed to the introduction of a law which is intended to guarantee that all people are treated with equal rights. It's also amazing how the media has tried to portray this law as negative in every way! This law has "not" reduced society to rubble in the other countries in which it is enforced, and it will not do so here!
Colin, England

European law can act as sort of an international reality-check if your laws are still up-to-date

Michel van de Geijn, The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, the European Court has outlawed a number of laws which we took for granted but were actually not from this day and age. So, I think, in Britain as well and now more directly, European law can act as sort of an international reality-check if your laws are still up-to-date.. And who can be against that?
Michel van de Geijn, The Netherlands

How people can object to human rights being enshrined in the U.K. is beyond me. If the government wants people to obey they law they should be setting a good example.
Alex, England

Accept the Human Rights Bill and say good-by to British independence.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

At last, we now have something official to fall back upon when treated in a degrading or tyrannical manner (and government agencies are not, thankfully, excluded). I hope this Bill is used to fight against the oppression of GM foods and the much-dreaded RIP Bill.
I Walker, Britain

Whose rights are protected? What happens if someone's "rights" contradict someone else's? What of organisations that wish their employees to follow their beliefs (religious groups, ethical employers)? Who exactly are we protecting from who? Who will protect us from lawyers out for "easy money"?
Richard, UK

We have just moved one step closer to the American style of life where litigation is the norm and you can sue or be sued for virtually anything

Stuart, UK
On the whole I think this is a good idea, however I think that there is a potential minefield waiting for the British legal system and society as a whole in how these rights are interpreted by the public and the courts. We have just moved one step closer to the American style of life where litigation is the norm and you can sue or be sued for virtually anything. I firmly believe that the Human Rights Act should be followed swiftly by a Human Responsibilities Act.
Since Human Rights legislation was introduced in Scotland there have been hundreds of extra cases introduced only about 20 of which were admissible in court. If people spent more time fulfilling their responsibilities as constructive members of society we would have no need of this new Act, which is open to abuse and could result in violations of other equally important rights which aren't enshrined in the legislation.
Stuart, UK

This is good news. Maybe in the not too distant future we'll be dragged into the twentieth century by having proportional representation at all levels of government. Only then will all our views be heard and we'll be treated as citizens and not as ballot-box fodder by the politicians.
Nige, UK

In April this year I was falsely accused of a minor offence. Despite a total absence of absence I was arrested and charged for something that did not even happen. I was subsequently acquitted after opting for jury trial (a right which will be taken away if Straw has his way). However, the police are still illegally holding my fingerprints, mugshot and DNA - despite the fact that I have no convictions, no charges outstanding and no previous trouble with the police. Liberty tell me there are 50,000 other such examples of records being illegally held. The rights granted to us in the Magna Carta are being taken away one by one. The Human Rights Act goes some way to restoring the balance. I applaud the enlightened people who have brought it in.
Paul Gardner, UK

The HRA is a significant threat to democracy in this country. By explicit statement is seriously restricts the abilities of democratically elected governments to set laws for the protection of the population. In doing so it effectively restricts "freedom of expression", "freedom of self determination" and a whole host of the other so-called rights it aims to protect. In other words it is self-contradicting.
Andy Davies, UK

think the government will find parts of their new bill allowing them to snoop on internet users conflict with certain parts of this act

Colin Wright, UK
How anyone can say the Human Rights Act should not apply in the UK is beyond me. If violations of human rights do not take place in the UK, (which is not the case) then the state has nothing to worry about. To argue that because Human Rights violations are less common here than in many parts of the world and so can be ignored is an insane position. Interestingly I think the government will find parts of their new bill allowing them to snoop on internet users conflict with certain parts of this act. I look forward to seeing them challenged over this.
Colin Wright, UK

The act is going to make it difficult for churches and other Christian organisations which might not be able to employ only committed Christians or refuse to employ people living in immoral relationships. The act should have included exclusions for religious organisations and those holding to a particular moral ethos.
Patrick, England

English rights have always been negative - we can do anything unless explicitly outlawed. This principle, so eloquently championed by Isaih Berlin, has proven the best defence against despotism over the centuries, and I think we are taking a big risk here. The most likely single outcome is the enrichment of lawyers, not improved rights.
Ben Broadbent, England

It's about time our human rights were enshrined in law.
Allon, England

I advise everyone to read the articles of the Act, linked on this page, before saying whether or not this is a good or bad thing. The rights protected seem good but they are all subject the whatever laws govern the land at the time of a case and open to interpretation in court. This isn't as strong as the USA's bill of rights so as a citizen one shouldn't feel overjoyed about this.
Godfrey Joseph, UK

We now have an identifiable code of rights that can be clearly understood by everyone

Ben, UK
The incorporation of the European Convention of Human Rights into law should be welcomed by everyone in this country. In place of a mystical and archaic unwritten code, we now have an identifiable code of rights that can be clearly understood by everyone. Anti-Europeans who look upon this bill as a spawn of the dreaded beast "Europe" should be seen for the xenophobes they are and ignored.
Ben, UK

Whilst this sounds like a great idea in principle, I believe we shall see the courts inundated with compensation claims as the greedy and avaricious try to bleed the nation for every penny they can. We have a legal system that has worked, not perfectly, but very well for centuries. This act will undermine this system and eventually disrupt the very fabric of our society. Why can't the Eurocrats leave us to manage our own affairs, and they can then concentrate on getting themselves out of the mess that the rest of Europe is in?
Mark Dickinson, Nottingham, England

See you in court!!!
Krow, USA

At long last we have an Act in British Law that begins to treat British people as citizens instead of subjects of the Crown!
Stephen, Scotland

For anyone to suggest that we should not have a human rights act simply because we're "better than most" is outrageous. The human rights record in the UK is comparatively good but very far from perfect. ANY violation of human rights should be unacceptable in civilised societies. As for the courts being "overwhelmed", surely it is far better to have busy courts rather than fail to deliver justice.
Alister McClure, GB

I fear that this new charter will simply open the floodgates for even more litigious timewasters

Dan Vesty, UK
I think this is another case of 'if it isn't broken, don't fix it.' I really find it hard to see Britain as a country that regularly violates the real human rights of any of its citizens, especially in comparison with so many of the world's regimes. I fear that this new charter will simply open the floodgates for even more litigious timewasters than we are already seeing.
Dan Vesty, UK

Of course it's right. I hope it will mean that the families of those who have contracted CJD will be able to sue beef farmers for compensation.
Khan, UK

Clearly, much of the European human rights laws were drafted to ensure that Nazism would never again be allowed to degrade human beings. For example, the right to marry is a direct result of the law in Germany that banned Third Reich citizens from marrying Jewish partners. Such laws are necessary if not essential in some countries, but their introduction in Britain is a disgrace to all those who served in two wars to ensure that our islands would never yield to Nazi inhumanity.
Peter Kendall (Brit in USA), USA

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