In defence of the Human Rights Act

Lord Phillips, President of the Supreme Court, has mounted a staunch defence of the Human Rights Act 1988.


In a forthright speech at Gresham College in June, Lord Phillips said the 1998 Act was “a vital part of the foundation of our fight against terrorism”. “In my opinion, the enactment of the Human Rights Act by the previous administration was an outstanding contribution to the upholding of the rule of law in this country and one for which it deserves great credit,” he said. “Because it requires the courts to scrutinise not merely executive action but Acts of Parliament to make sure that these respect human rights, the Act has given the Supreme Court some of the functions of a Constitutional Court. Drawing the right line between protecting the rights of the individual and respecting the supremacy of Parliament is, I believe, our greatest challenge.”

However, he noted that the Act and the judges who applied it had been unfairly criticised by senior politicians and the media. Charles Clarke, when Home Secretary, claimed, “the judiciary bears not the slightest responsibility for protecting the public” Lord Phillips said: “Charles Clarke failed to appreciate that it is the duty of the judiciary to apply the laws that have been enacted by Parliament.”

Category: 
Tags: