Ministers are planning legislation to end the requirement for UK courts to follow human rights rulings from the European Court of Human Rights, making it clear that the Supreme Court is the ultimate judicial decision maker.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab will introduce the measures in a new bill of rights to be tabled in Parliament on Wednesday. The bill has sparked concerns from the legal community and human rights groups, calling it a “seize of power” by the state.
The proposals would mean that UK courts would not always have to follow the case law of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.
The bill contains measures to strengthen freedom of speech. It would also make it easier to deport foreign criminals by using human rights arguments to limit their appeal rights.
The Bill of Rights, which will replace the Human Rights Act 1998, will address injunctions issued by the Strasbourg courts, such as last week’s Block the government’s maiden flight Asylum seekers to Rwanda. The bill will make it clear that these so-called “interim measures” are not binding on UK courts.
Last week, the European Court of Human Rights issued an emergency injunction against a passenger on a flight to Kigali, preventing his deportation until a high court next month challenges the legality of the government’s Rwanda policy.
Dramatic intervention in Strasbourg takes effect Soup The government’s flagship asylum-seeker policy has deeply angered Conservative MPs, but the government has no choice but to abide by existing legislation.
The move prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to say the UK could consider withdrawing from the human rights pact that underpins many treaties, such as the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland.
The new Bill of Rights will make it clear that the UK will remain a member of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Strasbourg Court of Justice. However, the bill would allow judges to freely deviate from Strasbourg’s rulings rather than automatically follow them.
The Human Rights Act 1998 currently requires UK courts to “consider” the Strasbourg case and the law, but courts have interpreted the law at various times as an obligation to comply with rulings.
Raab, who is also justice minister, said: “This will end UK courts following Strasbourg’s demands. There is no teaching [case law] Strasbourg’s precedent, so there is no need – nor is the convention required. “
“We will make it clear that now that we have a Supreme Court, it should do what it says it does and be the final judicial arbiter of the meaning of rights.”
Raab noted that on Rwanda’s policy, the government “will do everything in its power to keep these flights running . . . by challenging the legal arguments as forcefully as possible, we think we have a good case for it”.
However, the Bill of Rights, stemming from the 2019 Conservative manifesto that promised to “update” the 1998 Human Rights Act, could face a bump through parliament.
It has come under fire from human rights groups. “Let’s be clear: this bill is a power grab by a government that doesn’t respect our rights,” Liberty director Martha Spurrier said.
Stephanie Boyce, president of the Bar Association, which represents lawyers in England and Wales, added: “Overall, the bill will give the state greater unfettered powers over the people that will belong to all future governments, whatever their ideology.”
The European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights in Strasbourg are independent of the European Union and its powerful European Court of Justice in Brussels. The UK’s membership of the Convention is not affected by Brexit.