The fight to save the Human Rights Act has galvanised swathes of individuals and organisations across the country into action. From those in the legal profession who are at the coalface of using the Act to protect the rights of the most vulnerable in society to those who have personally seen their civil liberties compromised, a wide range of voices have come out against the Government’s plan to scrap the Act.
One of the new and more innovative projects highlighting the importance of protecting our human rights is Act for the Act, a crowd funding initiative launched via social media, earlier this year, with the aim of allowing individuals to tell their personal stories of how the Act has helped them.
It was great to hear that the initiative’s initial fundraising target of £50K had been surpassed, with almost 400 law firms, chambers and individuals making donations. The suggestion of poster campaigns and other initiatives inspired us as a firm and we welcomed an opportunity for real people to tell their stories.
By highlighting these stories to the public when the consultation into the Human Rights Act is announced, it is hoped that people will better understand the importance of the Act to all of our lives and why the Government should think again about scrapping laws which protect all of us.
We want to play our part in highlighting stories and situations where the Act has helped. We cannot let our human rights be weakened in any way.
At Hodge Jones & Allen we are backing the campaign. There are considerable constitutional and legal arguments about why we need to keep we Act, the scrapping of which could ultimately weaken human rights protection across the whole of Europe, damage the UK’s reputation on the world stage, fracture relationships with the European Union and cause rifts between home nations. Whilst the fallout from this would affect us all it is the impact on individuals in their daily lives that Act for the Act want to highlight. Demonstrating the importance of these rights to us all is vital in the fight to save the Human Rights Act.
In his speech to Liberty in 2009, Lord Bingham posed the question to opponents of the Act ‘which of these rights, I ask, would we wish to discard? Are any of them trivial, superfluous, unnecessary? Are any of them un-British?’ Whether the right to life, or freedom from torture or arbitrary imprisonment, the freedom of speech or other protected rights, the fact is that all of its critics expect to have all of their own human rights protected, they just don’t think that everyone deserves them.
Our civil liberties lawyers work every day with people who have had their human rights breached, or those of their loved ones. They may have been mistreated by police or other state bodies, have seen relatives die whilst in the custody of the state or been subject to miscarriages of justice. Others are victims of serious crimes, such as rape, or are the family members of murder victims. They have seen the police fail in their duty to protect them or to investigate the crimes perpetrated against them.
In many cases the Act gives these individuals their only means of redress, leads to police and other public bodies being held accountable – and knowing they will be, and drives institutional change. Taking away these rights, or limiting them to those we deem ‘deserving’ enough, flies in the face of the principles enshrined by the European Convention. We believe that the Human Rights Act is central to upholding British values, working towards equality in our increasingly unequal society and to ensuring the most vulnerable are protected and are given a voice.
That’s why we have decided to lend our support to Act for the Act which has been able devise an effective campaign to get these issues across, as well as an innovative way of funding the project and drawing support from across the board.
We look forward to seeing the campaign in action and hope that the project continues to attract donations with a view to spreading the message about the importance of the Act even further. Follow @ActfortheAct on Twitter.