UK Bill of Rights: Replacement for Human Rights Act will restore common sense to justice system – Dominic Raab MP
Take the case of foreign criminals like Mr M, who believes that his rights outweigh those of the law-abiding public in our country. He overstayed his visa and committed a string of offences while living in Scotland, including obtaining property by deception, resisting arrest, and driving without insurance.
Mr M eventually wound up in prison after being convicted of supplying Class A drugs. The UK government tried to deport him, but because of the Human Rights Act he successfully claimed that his ‘right to family life’ trumped the public interest in his removal. I know that people across the Scotland will find this perverse, an affront to decency and common sense.
But, it is not a one-off case. Over the last five years, claims under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – which is the source of the right to family life – have made up an estimated 70 per cent of successful human rights challenges made by foreign national offenders against deportation orders.
This government is determined to curb these abuses, restore some balance and make sure public protection is front and centre.
We will start by reinforcing rights that are fundamental to the UK’s shared history and way of life. Rights like freedom of speech – the liberty that guards all our other freedoms.
We have seen vigorous debate being closed down by a combination of court-innovated privacy law – licensed by the Human Rights Act – no-platforming in universities, and hyper-sensitivity to subjects that are reasonable to debate. We will use our reforms to safeguard the right to disagree, which is a cornerstone of our democracy.
Scotland has its own separate and distinct legal tradition, which the UK government will always respect. At the same time, we believe that on an issue as critical as human rights, all UK citizens should be able to enjoy the same essential protections.
So, I have come to Edinburgh today – as part of our commitment to consult with the Scottish government, judiciary and civil society – to make sure our proposals work for everyone in our United Kingdom.
As well as reinforcing our core freedoms, I want to end the abuses of the system that can give human rights a bad name.
We are also looking to limit the human rights ‘obligations’, which were never intended by the European Convention on Human Rights, but which force our police to allocate law enforcement resources and energy to protect serious criminals from each other.
It sounds ridiculous, but it happens across the UK, including Scotland. Police Scotland are legally obliged to protect rival gangsters from each other.
That straitjacket obligation defies common sense, and inevitably displaces police time spent protecting the law-abiding public. If the goalposts on human rights are to shift, our reforms will make sure that those decisions are made by elected law-makers – not elastic interpretations of rights, licensed by the Human Rights Act. Our reforms will allow police greater discretion in prioritising protection of the public.
To sift out spurious cases and curb the litigation culture fuelling it, our plans for reform will allow judges to block spurious human rights claims, and require claimants to show that they have suffered significant disadvantage before their cases can proceed.
None of these reforms require us to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights – and we won’t. Our new Bill of Rights will reinforce our core rights, protect the public from criminals and terrorists who try to abuse the justice system, and restore some common sense – for the benefit of the Scottish people, and everyone else in our United Kingdom.
Dominic Raab is the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton, Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary
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