Information Powers - Human Rights
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 to the Convention, 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. However, this can be a lengthy and costly process. To address these practical difficulties and to allow individuals to get 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 convention rights 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.
If a complaint or enquiry mentioning Human Rights is received, see the Human Rights site.
If necessary seek further advice from PT Customer Product and Process, Statutory Payments Technical Team, Room BP1101, Benton Park View, Newcastle upon Tyne.