This week's human rights news includes our Easy Read template letter for responding to the Human Rights Act Consultation and updates on two human rights cases brought against the police. 

News from BIHR

We created an Easy Read template letter for responding to the Human Rights Act Consultation

If you need to use the Easy Read or audio versions of the Human Rights Act Reform consultation paper, you can email [email protected] to ask for extra time to respond. This would give you until 19th April to respond.

Click here for more information on asking for extra time.

We’ve created an Easy Read template letter to help you respond. It has suggestions for things you can tell the Government. You do not have to use it and you can change it so it says what you want to say.

Click here to download the letter and instructions on how to use it.

We’ve been sharing updates from people who told us #WhyOurHumanRightsActMatters

In the run up to Human Rights Day 2021, we asked people to tell us Why Our Human Rights Act Matters to them. We heard from individuals, groups, and organisations from all across the UK.

In light of the Government’s plans to “overhaul” the Human Rights Act, we went back to some of the people who wrote blogs for us and asked them to tell us what they think of the planned changes. We’re sharing one update a day on our social media pages until the consultation closes on 19th April.

Read all the blogs and the updates here.

We attended a Ministry of Justice engagement session on Human Rights Act Reform

On Monday 11th April 2022, we attended an engagement session hosted by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). This session was for people using or supporting others to use the accessible versions to respond to the Human Rights Act Reform Consultation.

Click here to read more about what we’ve shared at previous Ministry of Justice roundtables.

We created a video explaining the separation of powers

This week, we released the second video in our BIHR Explains series. This short video looks at the separation of powers and covers what it is and how it works in the UK.

Click here to watch the video.

News from elsewhere

Please be aware that the external Human Rights news BIHR shared weekly contains difficult and potentially triggering issues. This week triggers include domestic violence, rape, male violence against women, abortion, assault and trafficking. 

The Joint Committee on Human Rights published its report into Human Rights Act reform

On Wednesday 13th April, the Joint Committee on Human Rights published a report criticising Government proposals to replace the Human Rights Act with a “Bill of Rights”. It said, “The UK is supporting the Ukrainians in their battle against the Russian invasion and the threat it poses to human rights. It would be a terrible irony for us to be weakening our own protections for human rights as we do so.”

The report highlighted the importance of the Human Rights Act in helping individuals secure their rights outside of court, referencing BIHR’s case study about Beth, a woman fleeing domestic violence. Beth was initially refused housing by the council but her Social Worker advocated for her Article 3 right to be free from inhuman treatment and was able to change the council’s mind.

Click here to read the report.

The Met Police were refused permission to appeal findings they breached the human rights of those organising a vigil for Sarah Everard

In March 2022, the High Court found the Metropolitan Police breached Reclaim These Street’s organiser’s rights to expression and assembly under Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act. The police applied to for permission to appeal on three grounds: “incorrect identification of the decision under challenge; errors in relation to ‘reasonable excuse’; failure to apply s31(2A) of the Senior Courts Act 1981” (which prevents judges from awarding damages if the same outcome would have occurred even if correct procedures were followed). The Court found no merit in any of the grounds and refused permission to appeal.

Source: The Guardian

The Scottish Human Rights Commission told the United Nations the Government’s proposed reforms risk human rights in the UK

The Universal Periodic Review was established in 2006 as part of the United Nation’s (UN’s) Human Rights Council. Its goal is to improve the human rights situation in all UN member states, including the UK. States are assessed by each other every four to five years and non-governmental organisations are able to submit information to be considered as part of the assessment. The UN then releases a report and makes recommendations to the state being assessed.

The next review of the UK is due to take place in November 2022. In April 2022, the Scottish Human Rights Commission submitted an evidence report to the UN to be considered as part of this review. The report includes concerns about “UK Government proposals to reduce existing human rights protections disregarding its own Independent Human Rights Act Review findings”.

Click here to read the report.

The Attorney General referred the Colston statue case to the Court of Appeal

In December 2021 and January 2022, four protestors who toppled the Edward Colston statue were found not guilty of criminal damage because they had a lawful excuse for their actions under Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act.

The Attorney General has now referred the case to the Court of Appeal to clarify "whether someone can employ a defence of human rights in a criminal damage case" and "whether it was up to juries to decide if a criminal conviction is a proportionate interference with someone's human rights." The ruling won't impact the acquittals.

Source: The Guardian

The Manchester Police have apologised for breaching the human rights of victims of the Rochdale grooming gang

Between 2004 and 2011, three victims of Rochdale grooming gangs were subjected to abuse including rape, sexual assault, trafficking, physical assault, kidnapping and forced prostitution.

Represented by the Centre for Women’s Justice, they brought claims against the police for failing to investigate and protect them from the abuse. They claimed the police breached their right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3); their right to be free from slavery and forced labour (Article 4); and their right to private life (Article 8). The victims also argued that the police breached their right to be free from discrimination (Article 14) as abuse against young women was “not viewed with the same severity as other crimes.”

One victim, who was impregnated by her abuser and had a termination, brought a further claim under Article 8 after the police “seized” her foetus without her knowledge or permission in order to carry out DNA testing.

Another victim, who was subject to a criminal charge that she was not informed about, also argued there had been a breach of her right to a fair trial (Article 6).

The Metropolitan Police settled the claim outside of court, with the victims receiving “a substantial settlement of damages”. On Tuesday 12th April, the Chief Constable met with the victims to apologise in person, saying “GMP could, and should, have done much more to protect you and we let you down.”

Source: Centre for Women’s Justice