Home > Human Rights > What is the Human Rights Act?

What is the Human Rights Act?

By: Liz Lennox - Updated: 13 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
Human Rights Act The Human Rights Act

The Human Rights Act 1998 is an act of Parliament which brought into the British Legal System certain elements of the European Convention On Human Rights.

To the ordinary man or woman on the street, the Human Rights Act is probably, at best, a mystery left to the purview of politicians and social commentators. At worst, I have heard it called a ‘reason for the do-gooders to get bent out of shape when protecting ingrates and CRIMINALS’; I would like to stress that this is the personal opinion of a friend and not my own commentary on the issue!

In point of fact The Human Rights Act is quite possibly the most important piece of legislation to be issued by the British Government; it is the beginning of legitimising a movement that has been in existence since before the Nuremberg Trials, as far back in history as the French and American revolutions. It is about admitting that not everyone is as nice as we would like to think they are and showing a united front to those who would seek to deal in injustice and oppression.

Un-Obtainable Ideals

This all sounds very lofty and noble, doesn’t it? But it is a sad fact that we can no longer rely on our society, or the world at large, to treat us, and each other, with the respect we deserve. Many would argue that we are born with obligations to treat people with dignity and in the manner in which we expect to be treated. Somehow these ideals often seem to be forgotten over time. This is not an issue of religion or philosophy, although there are those who would seek to make it one; it is about common decency and consideration for others.

To redress the balance it would seem to be easy to simply call for a world, and a society, that bases itself on respect for human rights; it is however a continual struggle to adjust current attitudes and, bizarrely, to explain to people why they need to respect the enigma that is ‘Human Rights’.

Isn’t This Just an Issue in Other Countries?

The Act itself does not just deal with the ‘big’ issues of torture, discrimination or slavery (all things that, thankfully, are largely restricted to other countries); it is also concerned with the very down-to-earth principles of a right to food, housing, privacy, health, equality and freedom of speech, to name but a few.

In a very real way the Human Rights Act begins to re-affirm those obligations that we forget and seeks to set them in stone, and in history.

It would be nice to think that the British Government was the arbiter of this change but, sadly, no. Our own Human Rights Act is a way of bringing some parts of the European Convention On Human Rights onto our law books. The actual chain of events is not the subject of this article; how our human rights laws originated could be seen as quite complex and is the subject of great legal tomes and lengthy debate. The greatest debate appears to be that The Human Rights Act only gives responsibility to public authorities, the act is still too young to be definitively applied to individuals. Hence, private claims for breach of Human Rights tend to go straight to the European Court Of Human Rights.

Essentially The Human Rights Act sets out our responsibilities as a society. As with any form of legislation, there are always people who would seek to interpret the content for their own ends; it seems very popular to start shouting about a violation of human rights whenever all other avenues are exhausted but the very fact that this is possible is a very real principle of the Act itself.

Do I Need to Know?

Yes, well, I certainly think you do. It is not enough to just know that something is wrong. The Human Rights Act gives us the legal right to stand up and be counted. It should not, therefore, be discounted as just another politically correct piece of legislation. It may only be in its relative infancy but, as members of society, we have a right to know what our law-makers are doing on our behalf. This does not just mean listening to the media interpretation of legal decisions; we can all be outraged by sensational headlines, such as the burglar given a right to sue a homeowner when he is injured during the commission of a crime or the foreign criminals allowed to stay on our shores. Being a member of a society brings responsibilities along with the rights and it is our responsibility to know that, while we are incensed by headlines, the same laws also protect us, as individuals and as a community.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Fay - Your Question:
I suffer from a genetic condition named Alpha1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, I am 53 years of age female, there is no cure for this, there are products available to slow down the progression of this horrible condifion. This medication has been refused by the scottish government due to funding. Yet other countries get this medicine no problem, this condition has robbed me of my mother died aged 54, my brother died aged 55, both my children 35 and 31 are carriers.Can I fight for this treatment in any way, I feel like I am being kicked when I am down, I want to live.

Our Response:
We think you'd need to seek legal advice on this one. The way the NHS operates is that only certain treatments are funded unfortunately.
AboutHumanRights - 14-Feb-17 @ 12:10 PM
I suffer from agenetic condition named Alpha1 Antitrypsin Deficiency,i am 53 years of age female, there is no cure for this, there are products available to slow down the progressionof this horrible condifion. This medication has been refused by the scottish governmentdue to funding.Yet other countriesget this medicine no problem, this condition has robbed me of my mother died aged 54, my brother died aged 55, both my children 35 and 31 are carriers. Can i fight for this treatment in any way, i feel like i am being kicked when i am down, i want to live.
Fay - 13-Feb-17 @ 8:18 AM
@J-Damm. Put in a formal complaint about this. here's how to do it.
AboutHumanRights - 23-Mar-15 @ 11:21 AM
Hi , I have a friend he has a family with two small Children and he is unemployed. He was asked to go to an interview by the UK Jobcentre, he asked beforehand is he eligible for this job, the jobcentre said that he was, so he went to the jobcentre for the interview, and did attend, his advisor will back him up on this. When he got to the Jobcentre, he was then told that he was not eligible for the job, because he did not hold a full driving license and that he is too young, so he left. Now the Jobcentre has told him that his benefits have been cut, because he did not attend, he has no money to pay his bills and is likely to lose his home, and he cannot now feed his children, him and his family are going to end up on the streets, living from soup kitchens, how can this be right this is happening all over the UK. How can I help him. Thanks Gordon
J-Damm - 19-Mar-15 @ 4:32 PM
Just interested to know...did you contact the British Embassy when it first happened? How did they help?
everready - 2-Sep-14 @ 9:20 AM
I have two sons imprisioned in Spain they will have been in prison 3 years on the 14th September.. They were finally sentenced in January 2014 after 2 and a half years on remand.. They tried to get bail many times,, we paid for two different Lawyers.. as a family this has broken us.. we are decent people all of us,, my sonswere sentenced and at the trial which their father and I both attended there seemed to be no evidence... The Gaurdia of Saville (there were 5 people called)all said they couldnt recognise them and on two consecutive days, different sets of the Guardia said that there was no evidence to connect my sons with any drugs that were found in Ibiza.. in fact the largest haul of drugs was even dug up a Kilometer away from where they were supposed to have been seen .. and the haul included pills like LSD, which my sons didnt even know what they looked like..and to make matters worse the LSD and other drugs that were found must have been burried since at least 2009 when my sons had never even been to the Island of Ibiza,because they wer'nt on sale in Ibiza in 2011 we have been told....My youngest son who was 23 when he was first arrested is Autistic he was diagnosed when he was 12 and we have sent over medical evidence, but they dont believe how it effects him and think he (puts it on) to get his own way.. which is nonsence..He had a break down in 2012 and was seriously ill, it has left him with a turettes like twitch that at time he struggles to control.. in court he had to hold his jaw almost repeatedly through out the trial it was heartbreaking to see his anguish.. at the end he spoke in Spainish and the who court was moved by what he said, he was very emotional and we were all crying... my older son who was 25 when he was arrestedis coping in a day to day kind of way buthe thinks he has skin cancer, I was diagnosed last year and he is very anxious too. the family as a whole has been ripped apart... I feel we will never recover from.. all lmy sons want to do is to restart their lives, the oldest to finish off his education,he wants to be a nutritionalist...and the youngest wants to be a whole life coach to try and help people retrain their lives with physical exercise and support... both of the boys are very commited and have managed to cope in prison because of their exercise regime and dedication to their sport... I have'nt been to the press though I have thought about it, because I dont want them to be victimised when they eventually return home,. We live in a small village and it is testiment to the love and support we have had from all of the local people about them. if there is anyway that you could help us then please contact me.. I am losing the fight and am very tired... .
I never knew how str - 1-Sep-14 @ 12:08 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word: