Overview and purpose: Human Rights and other issues
European Convention on Human Rights
The European Convention was drafted after the Second World War to protect the rights and freedoms of the people of Europe. The United Kingdom was one of the first countries to sign up to the Convention in 1953. Today, most European countries have signed up and these countries make up the Council of Europe. The Council is a separate organisation to the European Union.
The Convention is divided into “articles” and over the years has been supplemented by protocols agreed by the Council of Europe. Some of the protocols deal with procedural issues, but some guarantee further rights in addition to those in the Convention. The UK has signed up to some but not all the protocols.
The European Court of Human Rights is the international court set up to interpret and apply the Convention. It is based in Strasbourg, France.
Human Rights Act 1998
Since 1966, individuals have had the right to bring cases against the British Government in the European Court of Human Rights. This can be a lengthy and costly process. To address such practical difficulties and to allow individuals to obtain redress for breaches of the Convention in the British courts, the Government passed the Human Rights Act 1998 which came into force on 2 October 2000.
The Human Rights Act gives individuals the right to take proceedings in the domestic courts if they think their rights under the Convention have been (or are going to be) breached. It gives effect to most (but not all) of the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Convention in two main ways:
- by making it clear that as far as possible the courts should interpret the law in a way that is compatible with Convention rights
- by placing an obligation on public authorities to act compatibly with Convention rights.
The Human Rights Act requires the courts to take into account past decisions of the European Court of Human Rights when deciding cases under the Human Rights Act.
Action to take on an enquiry or complaint mentioning Human Rights
The Human Rights Act requires public authorities to act in a way that does not breach Convention rights. The Act does not define the term “public Authority” but government departments, including HMRC, are all public authorities for the purposes of the Act.
If you receive a complaint or enquiry mentioning human rights, the Human Rights Act or the European Convention on Human Rights, suspend action on your cases and refer the matter immediately to PT Customer Product & Process at Newcastle with full details.
Data Protection Act or Freedom of Information Act enquiries or complaints
Similarly, any enquiry or complaint which mentions Data Protection or Freedom of Information issues should be acted upon immediately, seeking advice where appropriate.