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Enforcement of European Convention and HRA 1998

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Last updated 23rd November, 2008.

This page deals with enforcement of the European the Convention on Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). Their effect and relevance are summarised on the main European Convention page.

Enforcement in UK courts

The Human Rights Act 1998 makes the European Convention on Human Rights enforceable in the UK courts. It is no longer necessary to go to the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) in Strasbourg, though appeal to Strasbourg remains possible.

However there are differences depending on whether or not the complaint is against a public body:

Action against a public authority

Where a ‘public authority’ breaches the Convention, an action for breach of the Convention can be brought against it in the UK courts. This is under sections 6 and 7 Human Rights Act. See the discussion on who is a ‘public authority’.

Action against others

The Convention and the HRA can also be brought into play against someone other than a public authority provided there is an existing right of action to ‘hang’ the Convention argument onto. The courts are obliged to respect the Convention rights even in deciding disputes between private individuals, companies etc. For example, the Convention could be cited in an Equality Act claim against even a private sector employer or service provider.

Linked with this, the HRA expressly says that legislation must be interpreted in accordance with the Convention wherever possible.

Compliance by UK statutes

UK statutes themselves should comply with the Convention, and the HRA now obliges a Government sponsor of new legislation to make a declaration as to its compatibility with the Convention.

However, the HRA does not allow a court to treat primary legislation as void for breach of the Convention. The higher courts can declare a statute to be incompatible with the Convention, but the statute will continue in force unless and until the Government decides to change it.

Further information

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