More on Bill of Rights
1. Environmental Angle
The HRA is used to make rulings which have implications for the environment, particularly using articles 10 (freedom of expression) and 11 (Freedom of assembly and association) to effect change and using articles 2 (Right to Life) and 8 (Right to Respect for Private and Family Life) to improve the environment.
For example the Campaign Against Climate Change’ Time To Act March (2015) and Chris Packham’s People’s Walk for Wildlife (2018) were able to use Article 11 to show they were not responsible for paying £1000s for temporary road closures and therefore enabled these two marches to go ahead. Similarly, the inquest into the death of 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah found that she had died as a direct result of air pollution. This was the first ruling of its kind and the Inquest was mandated by Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, the Right to Life. This sets a precedent for other lawyers to use Article 2 in this way to protect lives from environmental danger.
2. Human Rights angle
The scope of the HRA is far reaching and there are many cases where people have been empowered by it to get justice. Some key examples include:
- Do Not Resuscitate Orders which now have to be discussed with patients due to the HRA
- Good Friday Agreement which the HRA is a cornerstone of. Revoking it has serious implications for the ongoing peace process at a turbulent time.
- Justice for racist murder victim Zahid Mubarek in Feltham Young Offenders. The right to life of a prisoner and the need to investigate a death where a state is implicated was used to order a public inquiry.
- Hillsborough – a second investigation using the HRA right to life resulted in an ‘unlawfully killed’ verdict for 96 Liverpool supporters who died.
Conclusion on the Bill of Rights
Removing the HRA will enable more draconian laws like those we have just seen in the Policing Bill. This is controversial and it is the wrong focus – the cost-of-living crisis and the climate crisis is pressing. The government claim they are strengthening freedom of expression but it will not be strengthened by weakening all these rights. Removing the Human Rights Act is wrought with unintended consequences. Instead of repealing the HRA, what is needed is to build on these rights with a right to healthy environment.