Equality and Human Rights Commission Angus Cleary, Regional Manager North West
EHRC – a snapshot • Great Britain’s first National Human Rights Institution with UN ‘A’ status • Our remit: • Encourage good practice in relation to human rights • Promote awareness, understanding & protection of human rights • Monitor the effectiveness of laws relating to human rights and compliance with equality laws 2
Human rights – the values Fairness Respect Equality Dignity Autonomy Equality is central to Human Rights, but not the whole story....
Human Rights - the Principles • Basic standards of treatment - state must fulfil • Covers the state’s relationship with individuals • Human Rights are: • Everywhere • Automatic
Human Rights – the history • Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948: first formal statement in modern era • Think of the roots of this: limiting state control over inhabitants • European Convention on Human Rights, 1950: making rights binding • People can now call on and use rights in the courts • Human Rights Act, 1998 • Bringing rights home
Human rights – the law Human Rights Act 1998 • Almost identical to ECHR • Can be used in courts in UK – don’t have to go Strasbourg • Legislation must be interpreted with the HRA in mind • Articles are absolute, limited or qualified
Human Rights Act 1998 Part I: The Convention • Article 2: Right to life • Article 3: Prohibition of torture (inhuman or degrading treatment) • Article 4: Prohibition of slavery and forced labour • Article 5: Right to liberty and security • Article 6: Right to a fair trial • Article 7: No punishment without law • Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life • Article 9: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion • Article 10: Freedom of expression • Article 11: Freedom of assembly and association • Article 12: Right to marry • Article 14: Prohibition of discrimination • Part II, First Protocol • Article 1: Protection of property • Article 2: Right to education • Article 3: Right to free elections
Absolute v non-absolute • Absolute rights – can never be interfered with • Limited – can be engaged in certain circumstances • Qualified – can be balanced for the public good • Procedural rights
Absolute v non-absolute • Right to life • Right to be free from torture • Freedom of religion, thought and belief • Right to privacy • Right to liberty
Proportionality If a qualified right is to be engaged, have to ask: is this 1. Lawful 2. Legitimate 3. Necessary 4. Proportionate Don’t use a sledgehammer to crack a nut!
Article 2 – Right to Life • Positive obligation to protect right to life • Prohibition on taking life • Procedural Obligation – effective procedural investigation. • Use of lethal force permitted • Doesn’t cover life before birth or euthanasia • Doesn’t allow life saving treatment in all circumstances
Article 2 - Example • Do not resuscitate orders • Woman murdered by her abusive husband – police didn’t answer her call • Prisoner dies in custody, family wants an inquest • Jason Smith case • Baby P case
Article 3 – Right to be free from torture and inhumane or degrading treatment • Inhuman Treatment – causing intense physical and mental suffering • Degrading Treatment – fear, anguish, inferiority capable of humiliating and debasing and possible breaking physical or moral resistance • Absolute right
Article 3 - Examples • Being left for long periods in waste • Starvation/malnutrition/dehydration • Neglect • Being left undressed in full view of staff, patients, public • Forced/unnecessary medication
Article 8 – Right to Privacy • Covers private life, family life, home and correspondence • a person’s right to have and to express an identity; • the freedom to express one’s sexuality; • consenting to medical treatment; • having parental access and custody of children; • the right to have and form social relationships
Article 14 – Anti-discrimination The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status. • I.e. Article 2 (right to life) was engaged because someone is disabled (article 14)
Article 14 - Examples • DNR order given because patient is disabled or elderly • Patient sectioned due to lack of translation services • Law-abiding youth being moved on by police due to age
Raising Human Rights Cases - Who • Only victims or potential victims • Must be actually and directly affected, but don’t need to have suffered the consequences • Potential victims must show real threat not theoretical possibility.
Raising Human Rights Cases - How • No specialist court – part of our legal system • Claims are brought in appropriate court of tribunal • Limitation period of one year – can be extended by the court • Subject to other limitation periods, eg 3 months for judicial review
Remedies • Horses for Courses • Depends which court it’s in • Depends what the issue is • Can be: • A declaration that the right was violated • A declaration of incompatibility • Money (though damages tend not to be high) • Injunction
Findings: Barriers to embedding a Human Rights Approach Negative and sensationalist media coverage Lack of understanding and mainstreaming in policies and practices Lack of political leadership 21
Best practice • Health and social careeg EHRC Home Care Inquiry • Local authority services • Education • Criminal justice • NGOs and voluntary organisations 22
Best practice: Education • Hampshire schools ‘Rights, Respect, Responsibility’ Initiative: • Human rights mainstreamed across school policy and curriculum • Drop in bullying • Drop in exclusions • Improvements in exam results.