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Human rights and the UK constitution

Human rights and the UK constitution

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Published by jailhouselawyer
Executive summary
1. Human rights law has been the subject of considerable controversy
over the last few years. This paper aims to clarify some of the
key issues at stake. In particular, it evaluates the current state of
UK human rights law, and explores how proposals for a new Bill
of Rights may affect how human rights are protected within the
framework of the UK’s unwritten constitution.
2. The UK is a parliamentary democracy: the British people can be
said to govern themselves through their elected representatives in
Parliament. However, it is widely accepted that healthy democracies
are based on more than majority rule. Parliament, the executive and
other organs of the state are expected to respect individual freedom
and the human rights of every person subject to their jurisdiction.
3. From the Magna Carta through to the current day, there has
been lively debate about what constitutes a human right. Deep
disagreement also often exists as to what constitutes a breach of
an individual’s human rights. This is particularly true when it comes
to ‘qualified rights’ such as freedom of speech and the right to
privacy, which can come into conflict with other rights. As a result,
elected politicians are usually given the authority to decide how
individual rights should be balanced against the public interest.
4. However, in a majoritarian political system, minorities and
other disadvantaged groups are at risk of being subject to
discrimination or unfair treatment. Furthermore, most of the
day-to-day functioning of the state is controlled by the executive,
which through the government of the day usually exercises a
dominant influence over Parliament. This limits the extent to which
Parliament can protect individual rights and makes it difficult for
public bodies to be held fully to account for how they use their
wide-ranging powers.
Executive summary
1. Human rights law has been the subject of considerable controversy
over the last few years. This paper aims to clarify some of the
key issues at stake. In particular, it evaluates the current state of
UK human rights law, and explores how proposals for a new Bill
of Rights may affect how human rights are protected within the
framework of the UK’s unwritten constitution.
2. The UK is a parliamentary democracy: the British people can be
said to govern themselves through their elected representatives in
Parliament. However, it is widely accepted that healthy democracies
are based on more than majority rule. Parliament, the executive and
other organs of the state are expected to respect individual freedom
and the human rights of every person subject to their jurisdiction.
3. From the Magna Carta through to the current day, there has
been lively debate about what constitutes a human right. Deep
disagreement also often exists as to what constitutes a breach of
an individual’s human rights. This is particularly true when it comes
to ‘qualified rights’ such as freedom of speech and the right to
privacy, which can come into conflict with other rights. As a result,
elected politicians are usually given the authority to decide how
individual rights should be balanced against the public interest.
4. However, in a majoritarian political system, minorities and
other disadvantaged groups are at risk of being subject to
discrimination or unfair treatment. Furthermore, most of the
day-to-day functioning of the state is controlled by the executive,
which through the government of the day usually exercises a
dominant influence over Parliament. This limits the extent to which
Parliament can protect individual rights and makes it difficult for
public bodies to be held fully to account for how they use their
wide-ranging powers.

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: jailhouselawyer on Oct 08, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/13/2014

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HUMANRIGHTSAND THE UKCONSTITUTION
 
Colm O’Cinneide
 
Human rights andthe UK constitution
Colm O’Cinneide
September 2012
Steering group:
Vernon Bogdanor CBE FBAJohn Eekelaar FBADavid Feldman QC FBASandra Fredman QC (Hon) FBA (Chair)Conor Gearty FBAFrancesca Klug OBE

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