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Weekly Human Rights News: 05/04/2024

This week’s human rights news includes BIHR’s work on a new human rights resource as part of our London Communities Human Rights Programme, the successful launch of a free human rights awareness raising workshop for BRIL, updates on the Government's response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights' report on the draft Mental Health Bill, and the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 coming into force.

We shared new opportunities to get involved with our London Communities Human Rights Programme

We’re excited to share a new resource from our London Communities Human Rights Programme. London Voices: The Human Rights Reality of People Living in London reflects on what we heard from attendees at our four Human Rights Open Days in 2023 and 2024. Organisations, organisers and local authority staff told us about human rights issues including increasing poverty and inequality; reduced support services; and health and social care inequalities. The resource also looks at a Rights Response to these issues, highlighting the domestic and international laws that apply to everyone in the UK. We hope that this resource will support understanding of these issues as human rights issues, strengthening the power of communities to advocate for their rights when interacting with services and decision makers. We also hope this resource can be used as evidence in policy and campaigns of the very real human rights issues faced by people in London.

We’re now looking for a Learning Partner to work with us over the next four years as we continue to support communities to embed a human rights-based approach in their work. There is a budget of £35,000 over four years for this work and we’re accepting tenders from organisations or individuals. Applications close at midday on Monday 20th May.

We ran a free awareness-raising workshop with BRIL

As part of BIHR's Community Programme 2022-2025, we're delivering free awareness-raising workshops to a variety of community groups in April to support them to know their human rights. The first one took place on Thursday with Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living, or BRIL! BRIL is a community group run by and for disabled people, neurodivergent people, people living with chronic illness and people who experience mental distress. It campaigns for equality and inclusion for all disabled people, promotes independent living, and provides peer support.

In Thursday's workshop we talked about the Human Rights Act and how it can help people to speak up for their rights in conversations with public services. We decided to focus on the right to private and family life, home and correspondence (Article 8) and shared a story of someone affected by a council policy which put their ability to live independently at risk. The workshop was delivered in Easy Read format and had support from British Sign Language interpreters.

Participants on the workshop described it as 'insightful', 'helpful', 'accessible', 'affirming' and 'hopeful'.

News from Elsewhere

The UK Government commented on Mental Health Act reform

On 21 March, the UK Government responded to a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the draft Mental Health Bill, originally published in January 2023. The JCHR’s report made 55 recommendations for amendments to the Bill, which will reform the Mental Health Act, as well as suggestions to ensure it is implemented successfully in practice.

The Government’s response noted that it will take forward the JCHR’s recommendations and will make changes to the draft Bill before it formally introduces the draft Bill to Parliament. Read our explainer on how laws are made here.

The Human Rights Act acts as a foundation law, meaning that all other laws should be applied in a way that supports human rights as far as possible. This includes all mental health law across the UK. 

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 comes into force

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 came into force on Monday 1st April. The Act creates the offence of "stirring up hatred" if a person behaves or communicates in a manner that a reasonable person would consider threatening or abusive while intending to stir up hatred against groups with certain characteristics. These include age; disability; race; religion; sexual orientation; transgender identity; and variations of sex characteristics.

There is a defence if the behaviour or communication was reasonable in the circumstances.

S4(5) of the Act says that regard must be had to the right to freedom of expression (Article 10 of the Human Rights Act) when deciding if it was reasonable - including the general right to express offensive, shocking or disturbing ideas. 


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