I share concerns about the Government’s proposals to overhaul the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998 and I strongly oppose any attempts to replace it.
Any reforms to human rights legislation should be undertaken exceedingly carefully and I do not trust this government to be careful or impartial.
I am proud that in 1998, the then Labour Government introduced the HRA, which brings important rights home, giving our most vulnerable citizens a powerful means of redress. It protects the powerless against the might of the powerful and draconian government policies.
That is why I robustly defend the HRA, as well as Britain’s continued membership of the European Convention on Human Rights, on which the HRA is based.
In my view, should the Government’s draft ‘Bill of Rights Bill’ become law, it will see enormous amounts of red tape for victims of crime seeking justice. I also fear that it is an attack on women who can currently rely on the HRA to challenge the police when they have either failed or refused to investigate rape and sexual assault cases.
For these reasons, I urge Ministers to listen to the concerns of lawyers, academics and human rights groups and change course by committing to keep the HRA.
Amongst other things, Ministers claim that by replacing the HRA with their now published draft Bill it would make it easier to deport foreign nationals from the UK. However, a quarter fewer foreign criminals have been deported in the last year than in the previous year, so it is clearly not the HRA that is preventing foreign criminals from being deported.
This country’s criminal justice system is in crisis. There are record backlogs and delays in the Crown courts, drug use by prisoners is out of control, and just 0.6% of rape cases reported by women and girls ever result in a charge.
I believe that Ministers should focus on tackling these problems and restoring confidence in the system, rather than proceeding with this Bill. The Government should get its own house in order first.
I can assure you that I will continue to follow developments in this area closely and oppose the Government’s plans to overhaul the HRA.