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The Independent Human Rights Act Review

The Independent Human Rights Act Review was announced in December 2020. It was set up by the UK Ministry of Justice as an independent panel looking at the relationship between domestic courts here in the UK and the European Court of Human Rights and the impact the Human Rights Act has had on the relationships between the Judiciary, the Government, and Parliament. We worked with over 400 people in our submission to the IHRAR. We also worked to make sure the panel heard directly from people who have relied on the Human Rights Act to help them challenge poor practices without going to court, alongside people who have used the Act in court cases on everyday issues. 

Then-head of Ministry of Justice, Robert Buckland, said the IHRAR panel would look at how the Human Rights Act was working over 20 years after it was created.

The panel put out a call for evidence based on the terms of reference (its scope) as set by the Ministry of Justice. However, it ended up asking narrow legal questions about the Human Rights Act in the courtrooms and the relationship with Parliament. At BIHR, lots of people contacted us because they wanted to share evidence about 20 years of the Human Rights Act working, but this did not seem to fit with the narrow questions. We wanted to make sure that people, organisations and frontline staff in public services could share their evidence with the panel.


we held five research and upskilling workshops to gather the views of people across the UK


through our workshops and Easy Read survey, we reached over 400 people


we supported 10 people with lived experience to share their experiences directly with IHRAR panel members

Experience-Informed Research

Working with a partners in the voluntary sector and frontline staff bodies across the four nations of the UK, we held five research and upskilling workshops and shared an Easy Read survey, reaching over 400 people. This provided us with extensive experience-led research to submit a comprehensive response to the call for evidence which answered the legal questions posed but, crucially, also shared the views of over 300 people across the UK of using the Human Rights Act in their lives. The evidence we gathered was consistent across the UK and our submission amplified those voices. It was clear that the route to making human rights real for everyone is not through more legislative reviews of our Human Rights Act but through human rights leadership, at all levels, ensuring that the Human Rights Act is understood and implemented every day, in every interaction a person has with public services. We also put together guides, top tips and a question-and-answer platform to support people to engage with the consultation process directly.

Lived Experience Roundtable

The IHRAR panel ran a number of meetings with specific groups and public roadshows, hosted by law schools of universities across the UK. We wanted the panel to hold an event which was accessible to people who have experience using the Human Rights Act but who were not academics or lawyers. Importantly, we wanted to make sure that the panel heard examples of the Section 6 duty in the Human Rights Act. This duty means that public authorities (such as the NHS, police and social services) must act in a way that is compatible with human rights. We also wanted the panel to hear about why the Section 3 duty, the duty to apply other laws in a way that is compatible with human rights, as far as possible, is important, not just in court rooms but in everyday life. We were concerned that if this did not happen, wider everyday experience about a vital law would be missed.

We partnered with our colleagues at Liberty to set up an online “lived experience roundtable” for panel members to attend. This gave the Panel an opportunity to hear the stories of people who have used the Human Rights Act to create change in their lives. This included people who have had to use the Act to stop arbitrary decisions or policies being applied to them in a way that breached their rights, and staff who work in public services who have legal duties to uphold rights under the Act.

Here's what roundtable participants said...

The IHRAR received over 150 responses alongside its roundtable meetings. The Its final report is 580 pages and highlights that the effectiveness of the Human Rights Act cannot just be measured in the courtroom. The panel found that there needs to be more education on the Human Rights Act to increase public ownership of the Act and its concepts. This would help to create a culture of human rights, one of the main aims of the Human Rights Act. The report also recommended an increase in transparency in how the Human Rights Act works.

The report says “the vast majority of submissions received by IHRAR spoke strongly in support of the HRA. They pointed to its impact in improving public administration for individuals, through developing a human rights culture. Thus, the HRA was not, or not just, to be viewed through the prism of a few high-profile cases or indeed with a focus on litigation at all." (Page 16, para 46).

However, on the same day the UK Government published this report, it also published its consultation on Human Rights Act Reform which contradicts the findings of the panel entirely. The consultation was swiftly followed by the Government's Rights Removal Bill, which was ultimately abandoned in June 2023.

Sanchita Hosali, CEO

“After months of sitting on the findings of Independent Human Rights Act Review, the UK Government finally release the report the same day as issuing yet more questions aimed at fulfilling the agenda to “overhaul” our law. At BIHR, we worked with 400 people in our own submission to IHRAR and, alongside so many others, sent a strong, clear message that our Human Rights Act is working well to safeguard everyone’s rights and help people hold officials to account. Like parliamentarians at the Joint Committee on Human Rights, we remain unconvinced that there is any case for change."

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