The Human Rights Act for Ever Changes the Nature of British Society, Marking a Major Turning Point in British Constitutional History
October 2001 saw the full implementation of The Human Rights Act 1998. Its effect was to incorporate the European Convention of Human rights into domestic law. This means that British Citizens can now rely upon Convention Rights in British courts and will not have to 'take the long slow road to the Court in Strasbourg'. A civilised society can only exist when the citizens of the State know their rights, respect their rights and fulfil their own obligations to society. It therefore, follows that knowledge of Human Rights and dignity is the very basics of a civilised and democratic state. To some the Act marks 'a fundamental constitutional change…' which represents a strong step forward in Britain establishing a quasi-Bill of Rights 'introducing new values and an altered frame of reference to UK public Law'. To others however, the Act is simply a 'British statute having in principle no different status from that of any other statute' and whose effects, can not be considered so 'far-reaching.' This essay will seek to identify the effects that the Act will have on both our constitution and our lives as British citizens.
Ostensibly, the Human Rights Act 1998 purports to confer upon British citizens 'rights'. It would seem appropriate therefore, if first, we explore exactly what is meant by the word 'rights' and determine whether in fact such a conferral changes anything at all.
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