Does the UK need a Bill of Rights?

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HU100 – Foundation of Human Rights

Coursework 1

14th January 2008

Should the Human Rights Act 1998 be changed, and if so, how?

Currently, the matter of whether or not a Bill of Rights should be introduced in Britain is a focal part of the political discussions. This is evident in the current Green Paper, which sets out several points that should be approached in terms of constitutional reform, and the introduction of a Bill of Rights is strongly suggested. However it is important to consider what can be achieved in terms of a Bill of Rights, as well as looking at the Human Rights Act and seeing why it is deemed insufficient in the area, and whether or not it really is insufficient.

        The government outlines several reasons as to why a Bill of Rights should be introduced. Essentially they are claiming that the Human Rights Act is just the initial step in introducing human rights as an integrated part of British culture. Also, the Human Rights Act has created a lot of negativity from a public point of view and changing it to a Bill of Rights is an effort to make it more publically accepted; a means of ‘bringing rights home’.

         A brief history of the Human Rights Act is relevant to look at, as it will help in understanding why the Act has brought about negative attention. The Human Rights Act 1998 was part of a plan to incorporate the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) into British law. It was a way to ensure that Human Rights cases could be presented in the British courts, rather than having to take them to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. It would seem that this would be good for the public, but it is not as simple as it looks. Although the Human Rights Act is a higher piece of legislation that protects a person from others as well as from the government, it cannot be argued on its own. One can only use the Human Rights Act as part of an argument; the crime cannot be one that is solely based on the Human Rights Act. This has made it unclear to the public as to what extent they can use the Human Rights Act and clarification is needed to ensure the public whether or not the Act actually gives them any protection. Also, the fact that it was introduced as an act and perhaps was not publicised properly means that the people in Britain are even unclear about what the Human Rights Act is meant to represent.

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        The Green Paper strongly suggests that a Bill of Rights should be introduced to protect the rights of the British people, and make it clear to them what their rights and responsibilities are. It portrays how it should be a ‘British Bill of Rights and Duties’. In my opinion this is a very narrow-minded approach which moves away from the principle that a Bill of Rights should be based on human rights, which are the basic rights for all people, everywhere. They are trying to create a Bill of Rights that protects those of British citizenship. In the process of ...

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