No need to fix human rights laws – former Supreme Court president

Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent

Human rights laws do not need fixing, according to the former president of the Supreme Court.

Baroness Hale of Richmond, who retired last year, told MPs and peers there is “not a problem” with the Human Rights Act and she cannot think of a fix that would make the legislation better as “opposed to potentially making things worse”.

The Government has appointed former Court of Appeal judge Sir Peter Gross to consider whether the Act needs to be reformed, some 20 years after it was brought into force.

Findings from the review are expected to be published in the summer.

Meanwhile, Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has launched an inquiry into the Government’s review.

Speaking to the committee on Wednesday, Lady Hale said: “As far as I’m concerned, and I think as far as a great many people are concerned, there is not a problem.

“I don’t think the Human Rights Act causes a problem for Parliament because it is very carefully crafted to ensure that Parliament remains supreme and can take whatever it deems fit, including doing nothing at all, even if the courts have said that a particular piece of legislation is incompatible with the convention rights.

“So I don’t think there’s a problem and I don’t think there’s any need to fix it.

“And I cannot myself think of a fix that would make things better as opposed to potentially making things worse.”

Her comments follow those of Dominic Grieve QC, who served as attorney general between 2010 and 2014.

Last week he told the committee the laws had been “very beneficial” in improving standards even though some cases can be “irksome” and “costly” for the Government.

The 2019 Conservative election manifesto pledged to take a fresh look at how the Act operates and to protect human rights to make sure the law “continues to meet the needs of the society it serves”.

Campaigners have warned tearing up human rights laws would be a giant leap backwards and said the Act must be protected for the good of democracy.

The Ministry of Justice previously said the UK remains “committed to the European Convention on Human Rights”, insisting the review is limited to looking at the “structural framework of the Human Rights Act, rather than the rights themselves”.

Areas the review will consider include the impact of human rights laws on the relationship between the judiciary, the Government and Parliament, whether “domestic courts are being unduly drawn into areas of policy”, and how rulings from the European Court of Human Rights are taken into account in UK courts.

At the same time, the Government is also looking into the workings of the judicial review process.

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