Read this week's update on Human Rights news in the UK, including the latest on the Government's Consultation on Human Rights Act reform and Reclaim These Street's success in the High Court.

News from BIHR 

We submitted our response to the Government Consultation on Human Rights Act reform 

On Tuesday 8th March 2022, we submitted our response to the “Human Rights Act Reform: A Modern Bill of Rights” Consultation. It was informed by the views of the 250+ people who responded to our surveys and attended our workshops as well as our work with over 400 people around the Independent Review of the Human Rights Act in 2021. 

The consistent message from our stakeholders, and drawing on over 20 years of our own expertise, is to not replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. We need Human Rights Act implementation, not tampering with our protections, by the very people who have responsibility to uphold our rights: the Government and bodies exercising public power. 

Our key findings on the proposals for a new Bill of Rights were:  

  • 95% of people were not satisfied with the evidence provided by the UK Government on the need for a new Bill of Rights   
  • 95% of people are worried about the Human Rights Act being changed into a Bill of Rights   
  • 85% of people are not sure or do not believe the Human Rights Act needs to change   
  • 100% of people are concerned about democratic processes and accountability in the UK  

Click here to read our full response. 

We’re hiring an Administrative Assistant! 

We’re looking for an administrative whizz to provide support to our management and staff team! The role is a great opportunity for someone with excellent admin skills and relevant experience who is now looking for the next step in their career.  

We’re a remote-working organisation with some attendance required at a central London co-working space for induction, training, and team meetings. We also have a flexi-desk available in London once a week. 

If you have experience of working in a small charity, or an interest in moving into this area, we’d love to hear from you. The deadline for applications is 10am on Monday 4th April 2022. 

Click here for more information on the role and how to apply. 

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We gave evidence on protecting human rights in care settings 

On Wednesday 9th March 2022, our CEO, Sanchita, gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights as part of an inquiry into areas in which the human rights of patients, older people and people living with long-term disabilities are currently undermined or at risk. 

Sanchita highlighted that the Human Rights Act provides a legal framework to help staff in care settings make rights-respecting decisions, including when certain qualified rights, such as the Article 8 right to private life, have to be restricted. 

She also talked about the relationship between the Human Rights Act and other legislation in care settings, such as the Mental Capacity Act. She highlighted that without the appropriate human-rights context, laws can “become something that is about doing a decision to people rather than [making] a decision with people that is about ensuring, promoting and upholding their rights”.  

She told the Committee that there is a clear practice gap, rather than a legal gap, saying, “what we see every single day at BIHR is that staff, particularly in Health and Social Care settings, who are responsible for whether or not an individual has their rights respected and upheld in that service treatment decision and care, almost never have heard of the Human Rights Act.” 

She explained BIHR’s approach to human-rights training, including amplifying the voices of those with lived experience, making the law relevant to everyday work, and establishing clear expectations to be met. 

Click here to watch the full meeting. 

We attended a network meeting on emergencies and climate change 

On Wednesday 9th March 2022, our Human Rights Officer, Annie, attended a meeting on Emergencies and Climate Change hosted by Equally Ours. Equally Ours is a charity that brings together people and organisations working across equality, human rights and social justice to make meaningful change. 

At this meeting, representatives from different charities discussed emergency preparedness and the importance of making sure everyone is represented in planning. They talked about the impact of austerity on emergency planning and the Consultation on a new National Resilience Strategy which closed in September 2021. The Consultation came in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic to identify ways the Government can prepare for future challenges. 

VCS Emergencies Partnership shared their response to the Consultation, which you can read here. 

IPSEA told us Why Our Human Rights Act Matters to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities 

In our latest post in our Why Our Human Rights Act Mattes blog series, we heard from Catriona Moore, Policy Manager at Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (IPSEA) and parent of a disabled teenager with complex needs. 

Catriona explained that for families of children with special educational needs and disabilities, “decisions taken by the local authority may determine where your child goes to school, how they get there, what support they get in school, what (if indeed any) activities they can do after school and in holidays, whether you get any help at home, how much you can plan for the future, and many other things besides.” This makes the obligations that the Human Rights Act places on public bodies to uphold human rights especially important. 
Click here to read Catriona’s full blog. 

News from elsewhere 

Easy Read and audio versions of the Human Rights Act Reform Consultation have been released with extended deadlines to respond 

On 07 March 2022, one day before the Government’s Consultation on the Human Rights Act was due to close, the Government announced that some people can apply for a six-week extension to submit responses. This is because they only released an Easy Read version of the Consultation Paper on 07 March 2022 and an audio version on 08 March 2022.  

If you would like to share your views on reform to the Human Rights Act and were not able to before because of the lack of accessible versions, you can request an extension to give you time to use the Easy Read or audio versions instead. This will give you until 19 April 2022 to respond. 

The extension is not automatic; you have to email [email protected] to ask for it. 

Click here to read more about the extension and get our template email for requesting an extension, which you can copy and paste. 

Reclaim These Streets won their case against the Metropolitan Police for breaching their rights to expression and assembly 

On 10th March 2021, campaign group Reclaim These Streets announced they were planning to hold a vigil for Sarah Everard, a woman murdered by a Metropolitan Police officer. The Metropolitan Police advised them that “it is a breach of [Covid] legislation to organise such an event.” 

On 11th March 2022, the High Court handed down their judgment in the case brought by Reclaim These Streets against the Metropolitan Police. They found that the Police had breached the Article 10 right to expression and Article 11 right to assembly. The Court held that the Covid-19 regulations should have been read compatibly with the European Convention of Human Rights where possible. This would have required the Police to consider whether the group had a “reasonable excuse” to gather, which they failed to do. The Court also held that the Police did not conduct the proper proportionality test before restricting these rights. Click here to read our short guide to what proportionality is and how it works in the Human Rights Act. 

Read the full judgment here. 

A disability-rights activist was granted permission to appeal her case regarding abortions and discrimination 

While most abortions cannot take place after 24 weeks of pregnancy, the Abortion Act creates an exception if “there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.”  

On Thursday 23rd September 2021, Heidi Crowter, a Disability-rights activist with Down’s syndrome, brought a claim to the High Court stating that this breaches the Article 2 right to life, Article 3 right to freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, Article 8 right to private life and Article 14 freedom from discrimination. The Court dismissed the claim, saying Article 2 and 3 were not breached because it was not established that a foetus has human rights; and Articles 8 and 14 were not breached because if there was any interference with these rights, they could be justified as lawful, legitimate and proportionate. 

On Wednesday 9th March 2022, the Court of Appeal granted Heidi permission to appeal on Article 14 discrimination grounds. Lord Justice Peter Jackson said, “even if the appeal is likely to fail for other reasons, this is an area where clarity is important and the applicants and others in their position are entitled to know where the law stands on the question of their rights and whether they have been interfered with." 

Source: BBC News