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Human rights


The Human Rights Act 1998 transposes the provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950) into UK law. The Act came into force on 2 October 2000 as a result of which claimants can enforce their Convention rights in UK courts and tribunals. This topic examines the structure and framework of the 1998 Act and considers the cases involving Convention rights that have been heard before courts and tribunals and which have implications in law.

Key points

  • The European Convention on Human Rights contains a number of ‘articles’ which guarantee basic human rights. They include the right to a fair trial (Article 6); respect for privacy (Article 8); a prohibition on discrimination (Article 14); freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including the right to join a trade union (Article 11); the peaceful enjoyment of possessions (Article 1 of the First Protocol).
  • The UK formally approved the convention in 1951 but did not incorporate it into UK law until the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998 in 2000.
  • The Act requires UK courts to take account of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the European Commission of Human Rights (ECHR) in deciding issues concerning convention rights, and to interpret UK legislation in a manner compatible with the convention.
  • The Act enables individuals and commercial organisations to pursue human rights arguments in UK courts rather than having to take their cases to the ECtHR in Strasbourg.
  • The Act makes it unlawful for a ‘public authority’ to act in a manner which is incompatible with a convention right, unless required to do so by UK law. 
  • Organisations likely to be classified as ‘public authorities’ include government bodies and regulators, and ‘hybrid corporate bodies’ with both private and public functions (for example, the BBC).
  • Contractors to public bodies are subject to the Act when carrying out public functions.
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission is responsible for the provisions in the Act.