The Human Rights Act is Under Threat #ActfortheAct

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This Government's manifesto promised to scrap it. Many of those who support this plan, wrongly believe that the Human Rights Act is for the likes of terrorists, illegal immigrants and criminals.

Many others simply don't know what the Human Rights Act does and they are not motivated to find out. Act For The Act Human RightsTaking their inspiration from the ground-breaking #IAmAnImmigrant campaign which begin via "crowdfunder.co.uk", the #ActfortheAct poster campaign will launch with a series of simple but striking images of real people, with clear, strong messages about how the Human Rights Act protected them.

These posters will be across Tube and National Rail networks and around all major cities.

The campaign will allow 'ordinary', 'real' people, to tell stories of how the Human Rights Act helped them to RIGHT a serious WRONG in their lives. It is organised by a group of people who have seen first-hand how important the Act can be and is backed by those whose lives have been helped by the Human Rights Act.

To show our support for #ActfortheAct, we reached out to our different departments, to see just how important the Human Rights Act can be.

James Skinner (Associate Solicitor, Family Law)

We live in a post-democratic society, more akin to the rotten boroughs that were a feature of the eighteenth century. A largely disengaged and apathetic electorate, governed by a political elite who seem to have no real knowledge or concern over the day–to-day problems faced by those they govern and who are dominated by the special interest groups who support and fund them.

It has become increasingly difficult to challenge the decisions made by government and proper open debate of its legislation and use or abuse of powers and authority has grown progressively more difficult. This government’s taste for using orders in council to keep further erosions of civil liberties firmly out of the public view is particularly worrying.

Our unwritten constitution has many advantages in that it is endlessly flexible and almost protean in nature, meaning that we all think we know what it means and what our rights are. The checks and balances that are an equally important element of that constitution are there to prevent its abuse. These too have been stealthily dismantled and the separation of powers blurred.

A Line in the Sand

The Human Rights Act therefore draws a vital line in the sand. It is not simply there (as the popular press would have us believe) to protect terrorists, immigrants and the underserving.  Its terms enshrine what should be the basis for any civilised society and it is difficult to see how a ‘British Bill of Rights’ would look very different  or include any other rights that are peculiarly British or exclude those that might be seen in some way as foreign.

Family life for example (Art.8 of the Convention) covers all aspects of modern families, through the traditional nuclear families, to those in a same-sex relationship, transgender couples and everything in between.

It also serves to protect he most vulnerable members in our society. The Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers are using it to argue that using economic arguments (perhaps the worst of all) to limit support for foster-carers is incompatible with Art. 8.2 of the Convention.

A recent court case saw a couple cleared of accusations of child cruelty by the criminal courts, but their baby had already been freed for adoption and the court ruled that the child was ‘unlikely’ to be returned to them. A lack of public funding made it well-nigh impossible to challenge the experts’ evidence that led to the baby being removed from their care. The courts are also under great pressure to comply with the 26 week deadline within which the vast majority of care cases have to be concluded.

You Never Know When You Might Need It

My practice as a family lawyer has shown me deadlines and timescales are pretty much incompatible with the often dysfunctional dynamics of a family in crisis. The Human Rights Act is for us all, as you never know when you might need it.

Bu it is so much more than that. It protects our right to privacy and our correspondence. Electronic communication methods from e-mail to what your children are up to on Snapchat have grown exponentially over the last ten years. So has the interest the security services takes in what is sent via these media. The Human Rights Act makes sure that GCHQ and the like cannot have unfettered access to what we have to say in our personal lives. It is not enough simply to say "If I do nothing wrong, I have nothing to fear".

In 1561, John Calvin wrote, "Nowadays, monarchs pretend always in their titles, to be Kings by the grace of God: but how many of them to this end only pretend it, that they may reign without control; for to what purpose is the grace of God mentioned in the title of Kings, but that they may acknowledge no superior?"

A modern democratic government may try and do the same in the name of the people: the Human Rights Act helps to make sure the government knows where the limits lie.

#Act for the Act



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