What effect has the Human Rights Act 1998 had on the law of England and Wales?

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What effect has the Human Rights Act 1998 had on the law of England and Wales?


Pre-existing protection for human rights/civil liberties

Pre HRA effect of the ECHR

Key effects of the HRA:

- interpretative duty

- declarations of incompatibility

- remedial orders

- prohibition of incompatible acts by a public authority

- application in private disputes


- preservation of parliamentary sovereignty

- does not incorporate Article 13

Possible answer

The HRA 1998 came into force on 2 October 2000 and made it possible to enforce the European Convention on Human Rights in British courts. In Wales the Government of Wales Act 1998 introduced Convention rights a little earlier, in July 1999, since the GOWA included a provision prohibiting the National Assembly for Wales from acting incompatibly with the ECHR. A similar provision was contained in the Scotland Act in relation to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive.

Prior to the commencement of the HRA 1998, the UK was bound by virtue of its obligations under the ECHR to ensure respect for the rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Convention. Under the Convention itself it was possible (and, post-HRA, it remains possible) for an individual claiming to be a victim of a violation of his or her Convention rights to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and for that Court to hold the UK accountable for any proven breach, including by requiring compensation to be paid. However, before taking such a case, a person had first to exhaust available domestic remedies and thereafter the route to the ECtHR in Strasbourg was notoriously slow and expensive.
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The law of England and Wales did however provide a number of safeguards for human rights (though not described as such). A.V. Dicey identified a tradition of civil liberties, as part of the doctrine of the rule of law, as a fundamental cornerstone of the British constitution, exemplified in classic cases such as Entick v Carrington (1765). The basic proposition was that an individual is free to do anything that s/he is not by law prohibited from doing, and that s/he is entitled to freedom from interference by government unless such interference is authorised by law. This tradition ...

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