Human Rights Every Day
Whilst the current government is in the process of trying to scrap our Human Rights Act, don't turn a blind eye and dismiss it as something that doesn't apply to you because one day there's a chance you're going to need it. Its purpose is to protect the rights of individuals just like you.
Here are a couple of examples of how the Human Rights Act helps us every day:
Being Detained Against Your Will
The HRA importantly acts as a safeguard against abuses of power
that can unfairly deprive vulnerable people of their liberty. Article 5 of the ECHR provides the right to liberty and security, and only allows the deprivation of liberty
in defined circumstances.
A recent case resolved by Julie Cornes, our Partner and Head of Court of Protection
, illustrates this:"My client was elderly and had been diagnosed with mild dementia and short term memory loss. After a hospital stay for a urinary infection following a period of confusion, it was decided by hospital professionals and social services that it would be in her best interests to admit her to a residential home. Unfortunately, my client had not been appointed an advocate to speak on her behalf, which is a requirement under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. She had no close friends or relatives to speak up on her behalf and was placed in a care home against her will. For over a year she experienced severe distress and felt imprisoned. We successfully argued that as the correct procedure was not followed, our client had been unlawfully deprived of her liberty for over a year, breaching Article 5 of the ECHR."
Providing Fundamental LGBT Equality
The Human Rights Act has helped to advance the rights afforded for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
in a number of ways:
- It provides greater rights for people who are transgender - In Goodwin & I v UK (2002) the government's refusal legally to recognise the gender change was found to be a breach of Article 8 (respect for private and family life) and Article 12 (right to marry and found a family).
- Equal tenancy rights for same-sex couples – The Rent Act 1977 previously stated that only tenants living as "wife or husband" could inherit the tenancy. Mendoza v Ghaidan (2002) found that this contravened Article 8 (private and family life, his home and his correspondence) which engaged Article 14 (discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation).
- The HRA helped in lifting the ban which prevented gay couples from adopting in Northern Ireland.
Keeping Vulnerable Families Together
Article 8 of the ECHR provides protection for respecting an individual's right to family life and privacy
. This right is often important in Court of Protection best interests disputes involving contact arrangements between family members and an individual who lack mental capacity.
Angela Jackman, an expert in community care and capacity law at Maxwell Gillott (a trading style of Simpson Millar)
explains why the HRA was so important in one of her recent cases:"I acted for the son of an elderly woman (P) who lacked capacity to make decisions about where she should live and contact arrangements. The LA located a new care home for P due to difficulties with the original care home, but this happened to be a significant distance away from her son; the daily visits which she looked forward to became far more costly.""On behalf of my client who had a low income, I negotiated that he should be provided with financial assistance from the LA for the long journey required for him to continue visiting his mother each day. Without the funding he wouldn't have been able to continue making these visits which were so important to his mother and their family life would have been seriously limited. The LA accepted the position because of the undisputed relevance and importance of Article 8."Without the HRA, individuals such as our client and his mother would be in a very weak position. Elderly parents and other relatives whose quality of life is directly affected by family contact need the protection of the HRA.