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how can the judiciary protect human rights?

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How is the judiciary able to protect civil liberties in the UK? Civil liberties are the freedoms and rights which the citizen of a state may enjoy, that are guaranteed by the state. Until 1998, with the passage of the Human Rights Act, the UK had no codified set of civil liberties. This meant that citizens' rights were negative. A citizen could do anything up to the point where it becomes restricted by law. It is crucial that the judiciary is able to protect civil liberties and it has several methods with which to do this with, such as judicial review, the European Court of Human Rights and appealing to common law in the high court. The Human Rights Act has provided the judiciary with a codified set of rules that they can use to protect civil liberties. However the government were unwilling to set aside the principle of parliamentary sovereignty which means that Westminster is not subject to the HRA. However the judiciary can make a 'declaration of incompatibility' which allows them to hold the government to account and protect the civil liberties of citizens in the UK. For example, with the Belmarsh detainees case in December 2004. ...read more.


Judges may also question any government acts which are "irrational" or highly unreasonable, or acts which show procedural impropriety. The use of judicial review as a means of questioning government's actions has increased from 87 cases in 1968 to 3848 in 1997. Some argue that this growing number of cases means there is an increasing willingness on the part of the judiciary to intervene in the day-to-day business of government. Also the effectiveness of judicial review is limited by the reluctance of some judges to allow cases to go ahead and access to the system is limited as the right to a judicial review is not automatic. However the judiciary does have a number of remedies to protect civil liberties. The court can quash decisions made by public agents if they feel that they have been acting 'ultra vires.' A public body can be compelled to perform a specified function by law and any public body can be ordered not to carry out or to stop carrying out an action that the court decides is unlawful. A claimant for judicial review may also seek an injunction, a declaration or damages. In this way the judiciary has a number of methods to protect civil liberties that are disputed by judicial reviews. ...read more.


For example Lord Woolf has openly criticised the erosion of civil liberties. In criticising the government the judiciary can put pressure on them to ensure civil liberties are protected. Although elected representatives, the media, tribunals and pressure groups have played an increasingly important role in the protection of civil liberties in the UK, the judiciary remains the primary defence against the erosion of civil liberties. Judges have a lot of methods to enhance and protect civil liberties. Judicial review is an important example of these powers and can have a great impact on the organs of government and public bodies. Although the Human Rights act is not binding on Westminster it remains an important tool in tackling the erosion of civil liberties and provides judges with a codified set of rules to back up rulings. In recent decades I think more power has been given to the judiciary in being able to protect the civil liberties of citizens in the UK. Citizens have a clearer sense of their rights and freedoms than ever before and are able to take the necessary routes in ensuring that they receive these rights. Although parliamentary sovereignty remains an important part of the constitution the judiciary is able to hold government to account and pressurise them to protect civil liberties in the UK. Kate Manson Page 1 of 2 ...read more.

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