On International Human Rights Day it’s a good time to pause and reflect on what a momentous and challenging year it has been for human rights in Britain.
This year has given us many opportunities to celebrate the great work that modern human rights legislation has done for so many people in this country. Here are just a couple of highlights:
- Magna Carta – in June this year, we celebrated 800 years of the Magna Carta. Described as “the greatest constitutional document of all time”, this flagship symbol for human rights founded the principle that nobody is above the law, not even the King.
- Modern Slavery Act – this year saw the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act, enshrining into our domestic legislation Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right not to be enslaved). The Act seeks to further protect the rights of modern slaves and victims of human trafficking.
Also this year, the human rights team at Slater and Gordon were proud to support the British Institute of Human Rights as they celebrated 15 years of the Human Rights Act.
The Challenges for Human Rights in 2016
As well as having much to celebrate and shout about, we’ve also had the threat to our Human Rights Act overshadowing 2015.
We still don’t know what 2016 will bring for human rights in Britain, but we know that things will not remain the same. The UK Government consultation into the abolition of the 1998 Human Rights Act and its replacement with a British Bill of Rights is due to be launched in the new year. As yet, the full details are unknown but it has been reported that the proposed changes will focus on giving greater priority to public safety rather than the right to family life of foreign criminals to avoid deportation, as well as preventing the armed forces from being subjected to human rights claims from war zones abroad.
The good news coming out from recent media reports on the topic is that withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) will not be on the cards, and that the draft Bill will maintain all key provisions of the ECHR. If this is true, then this is a victory for those of us who have campaigned to ensure that we adhere to the core principles of the ECHR, which we must never forget was forged out of the devastation of World War Two by statesmen such as our very own Winston Churchill, determined to prevent another holocaust ever happening again.
How We’ve Used Human Rights Legislation This Year
Here at Slater and Gordon we’ve used the Human Rights Act in many cases over the past 12 months to help protect and defend the rights of some of our most vulnerable clients.
Some of the clients we have represented include victims of sexual violence and bereaved families who did not have their babies’ ashes returned by a crematorium – an alleged breach of Articles 8 and 9 of the Human Rights Act.
We have also helped protect the human rights of many vulnerable people this year, including elderly people being denied access to essential care services, people with mental health issues and children with special educational needs.
Whatever 2016 brings for human rights, Slater and Gordon will continue to strive to uphold and protect the rights of our clients and continue to champion our human rights legislation as we see day in, day out what a positive difference it makes to so many people.
Kim Harrison is the National Practice Development Leader for human rights at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
For a free consultation with a human rights solicitor, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.