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The right to a fair trial

The right to be a fair trial is protected by Article 6 of the Human Rights Act.

Key information

Last updated:  09 November 2022

This right often comes up in:
Health, care and social work, learning disability and/or autism, mental health and capacity and privacy, data and surveillance


Absolute right

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How might this right be relevant to my life?

You have the right to a fair trial if you are charged with a criminal offence or if a public authority (such as social services) is making a decision that has an impact on your rights.

Some examples of when your right to a fair trial might be at risk include:

  • Not being informed promptly, in a language that you understand, in detail, what you have been accused of, or what decisions have been made by a public authority that affect your rights.

  • Not being given all of the relevant information on how a public authority’s decision was reached.

  • If the public body making the decision was not impartial and/or independent.

  • If your hearing or trial did not take place within a reasonable time frame.

  • If you were denied legal representation and/or an interpreter where needed.

  • If in certain circumstances your trial was not open to the public.

  • If a decision was made by a public authority which seriously affected your life and/or threatened your wellbeing and you were not notified about this decision.

  • If a disciplinary hearing against a public sector employee is carried out unfairly.

Can my right to a fair trial be restricted by a public official?

No. This right is an absolute right, which means it cannot be restricted or interfered with by public officials under any circumstances.

However, there are some very limited circumstances where certain parts of the right do not apply. For instance, the right to a public hearing does not always apply to cases involving immigration law, extradition law, tax, and voting rights.

What duties do public officials have?

To respect your right:

This means that public officials must not deliberately take away or restrict your right to a fair trial.

To protect your right:

Public officials must take reasonable steps to protect your right to a fair trial, ensuring that measures are taken to keep you informed of decisions throughout the trial and that you understand the process. Public officials must also ensure that the trial takes place within a reasonable time frame.

To fulfil your right:

There must be an investigation when this right has been breached to determine what went wrong and ensure it doesn’t happen again. You have the right to appeal any decision made in an unfair way that impacts your rights. You also have the right to appeal any decision that was not made within a reasonable timeframe.