As public law and human rights specialists, Simpson Millar LLP can help you if you feel that your rights have been infringed upon by the unlawful act of a government body, a public authority, or another individual.
Human rights law is clearly defined in the UK; however, there are still countless violations of human rights across the UK.
In this guide we will outline human rights law and explain how getting help from a team of qualified solicitors will ensure justice is served when human rights are unlawfully encroached upon.
The main areas covered in this guide are:
Human Rights Legislation In The UK
Human rights in the UK are mostly influenced by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), with an individual piece of legislation – the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) – enshrining many of the main principles of the ECHR in UK law.
The main reasoning for the Human Rights Act 1998 is to give further weight and prominence to the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights. It does this by:
- Making it unlawful for any public body to act in a way that is incompatible with the ECHR
- Offering a solution for breaches of the convention in UK courts, avoiding lengthy appeals to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
- Allowing the judiciary to interpret Acts of Parliament to ensure that they are compatible with the ECHR
In essence, the Human Rights Act 1998 enshrines in UK law the right to defend your basic human rights from public organisations in UK courts. Under the legislation, public bodies (including the Government, the police force, and local councils) must treat individuals with equality and respect.
The rights and freedoms outlined in the Human Rights Act 1998 are also protected by European bodies, as an individual may take a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if they are not satisfied with how the situation has been dealt with in the UK.
Human Rights Violations
With human rights so clearly protected in both British and European law, violations are easy to spot and there is a clear framework for dealing with human rights violations in the UK.
Some examples of how a public body could encroach on human rights include:
- Not taking into account relevant considerations when making decisions that could affect individuals and communities
- Failing to consult or undertaking consultations without an open mind as to what the outcome can be – i.e. already having a decision laid out in their mind due to previous misconceptions
- Showing deliberate bias in decision making
- Treating individuals unfairly or unequally based on a deep prejudice
- Making a deliberate, or accidental, decision that encroaches on the rights outlined in the ECHR
Some of the real-world examples of human rights cases that have shaped Britain through recent court cases include:
- The ruling that dictated that police databases cannot retain data on individuals indefinitely – this ensured that a right to a private life was not violated
- Employers respecting religious beliefs and promoting freedom of religion and belief in the workplace
- Hospitals must protect vulnerable patients at risk of suicide, thus ensuring their right to life
In most cases human rights’ violations in the UK affect both individuals and whole communities. As such, it is important that when seeking legal advice on whether a violation has occured you consider a law firm that has strong community links, such as Simpson Millar.
If you are involved in a developing situation that you feel could lead to a human rights’ violation, it is advisable that you seek advice early, as it is easier to challenge a situation that is still developing than it is to seek retrospective action.
Gaining Justice Against Unlawful Actions
While gaining access to justice against the unlawful actions of a public body may seem like a daunting process, the steps required to challenge an unlawful decision or ruling are relatively straightforward when you receive the correct legal advice from an early stage.
The timeline for making a human rights’ claim in the courts is as follows:
- An alleged unlawful act is committed, violating human rights
- An informal conversation is commenced with the public body, with the express goal of tackling the unlawful action without the involvement of the courts
- If informal talks are unsuccessful the case can be taken to a local court or tribunal, who will make a judgement based on the facts of the case
- If the local court or tribunal pass a ruling deemed to be unfair, the case can go to the appeal court, who can overturn the earlier ruling if they disagree with the court's findings
- If the appeal court upholds the decision of the local court or tribunal then a further appeal can be lodged to the UK Supreme Court, who can overrule the decisions of the courts beneath it
- If the UK Supreme Court dismisses an appeal a final plea can be made to the European Court of Human Rights, whose decision is binding and can overrule all courts beneath it
In our experience of handling cases of unfair and unlawful treatment by public bodies, we have found that judicial reviews can achieve outcomes that could not be reached outside of court. Judicial reviews allow a court to review the actions of a public body, with the court able to make a declaration, order, or award against the public body.
The crucial piece of advice relating to human rights cases is to make sure that information is provided as soon as possible. If you were unable to challenge an unlawful action before it took place, acting quickly is crucial in minimising the risks of continued violation of rights.
If you feel that you, or your community, have been unfairly treated by a public body, or any other organisation, you may be eligible for legal aid, which will allow you to receive legal counsel without any personal financial contribution. If you are not eligible, we can advise you about our private funding arrangements, including fixed fees.
HRA Is Under Threat
The current government is proposing to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. This would significantly restrict our rights and would undoubtedly leave many without recourse to the courts for what would currently be a fundamental breach of their basic rights.
For more information on why we need to save the Human Rights Act see www.saveourhra.org.uk
Contact us now to discuss how we can help you by completing our, no obligation, online enquiry form and we will call you back or you can call us directly on 0345 357 9850.