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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 July 2006, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Human rights laws will not change
The Afghan hijacker plane
The Afghan hijackers were among controversial rights cases
Ministers have ruled out repealing or amending the UK's human rights laws as part of reforms of the justice system.

The Home Office has been examining the Human Rights Act in the wake of concern that it fails to safeguard adequately the rights of victims.

The review said the laws represented a "powerful framework" to balance the rights of victims' and offenders.

Home Secretary John Reid said the act would not be scrapped but there would be "robust" advice to frontline staff.

The advice, together with a new online hotline, would help to dispel "myths" about the laws among those who have to use them in their every day work, he told MPs.

'No common sense'

The Human Rights Act was brought into force in 2000 and incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. It means people no longer have to take their grievances about alleged breaches of the convention to the European courts.

I am very relieved to see he appears to have resiled from the early tub-thumping rhetoric
Nick Clegg, Lib Dems

But some judgements using the laws have proved controversial, with claims that criminals have been able to use the act to get away with breaking the rules.

Tony Blair said it was an "abuse of common sense" when a judge said nine Afghans who hijacked a plane to Britain could not be deported.

A leaked letter from the prime minister to Mr Reid appeared to suggest he wanted to give government the power to veto court judgements.

But the home secretary has stepped away from that move.

Really effective?

The UK is joining other countries in challenging a European court ruling which it believes means it cannot balance protecting the public above the risks faced by people being deported.

But Mr Reid said he would bring in new laws if necessary to ensure public agencies gave priority to public safety when considering the rights of individual offenders.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said he was pleased the government seemed ready to take a more sensible approach to human rights.

But he was waiting to see if it proved any more effective in practice.

He said Mr Reid's words were the "clearest possible admission" that the Conservatives had been to right to suggest the Human Rights Act caused "serial legal problems".

'Off the bandwagon'

Mr Reid's decision not to repeal or change the act was welcomed by Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Nick Clegg.

"I am very relieved to see he appears to have resiled from the early tub-thumping rhetoric from himself and other members of the government against the Human Rights Act and against the European Convention on Human Rights," he said.

"And that that approach has apparently been abandoned in favour of a more intelligent emphasis on the training and support needed for officials who have to interpret the human rights act.

"Could I perhaps ask him, next time there is an issue as important as human rights, if he could refrain, and his colleagues could refrain, from jumping on the media bandwagon?"


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