Critically assess the impact of Human Rights Act, 1998 on English law | Law Teacher
Human Rights were formed for the protection of the fundamental civil and political liberties in societies, committed to the rule of law. The European Convention of Human Rights was drawn up by the European Council, which was established after the Second World War, in 1953. It has now over 40 signatories, including the United Kingdom.
In the United Kingdom the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998) came into force in October 2000. The scope of the HRA in the UK was to give further legal effect to the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention of Human Rights. These rights don't have to do only with matters of life and death. We have the right to express our opinion, trust our beliefs, marry and start a family and other similar entitlements. Many of these rights are not absolute, however we don't have only rights but also responsibilities like to respect the rights of other people and not exercise our rights with intention to prevent them from being able to exercise theirs. Some of the human rights are: the right to life, freedom from slavery and forced labour, the right to liberty, freedom of expression, the right to an education and the right to participate in free elections. In any case that we believe our rights and freedoms are breached, we have the faculty to bring the case to the court in order to find our right .
The last right I mentioned above was the right that everyone has to participate in free elections. That right wasn't fully enforceable in UK because prisoners didn't have the right to vote. John Hirst, a prisoner, who spent 25 years in prison after killing his landlady with an axe, began his legal battle in order to change that situation. He lost the first round, at the High Court in London, but on 6th of October 2005 the seven – judge chamber of the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg decided in favour of him. The government of UK appealed that decision but the full seventeen – judge Grand Chamber of the same court, rejected their appeal. Mr Hirst, who was released from prison, heard the news on the radio at his home in Hull. He said: “The Human Rights Court has agreed with me that government's position is wrong – it doesn't matter how heinous the crime, everyone is entitled to have the basic human right to vote” .
After Mr Hirst won a long legal battle at the European Court of Human Rights, thousands of UK prisoners are likely to be given the right to vote. At the heard of that straddle decision the society divided into two parties. The first party is in favour of that decision while the other party is against it.
The party which is in favour of that decision declare a number of reasons why this statement is fair in the society. At first, they insist that criminals who go to prison are losing their liberty in the society; they don't lose their identity or their citizenship. They still remain part of the human race. Moreover they state that giving them their opportunity to vote is like encouraging them to make plans for their effective resettlement in the community. They have the right to decide who represents them and who makes the law because they are still affected by social and governmental issues.
On the other hand, the party who is against that decision makes clear that they should be excluded from the society. If somebody goes to prison, means that he/she breached one or more rules of their society and now they must accept the remedies for their actions. These remedies include lost of their right to freedom and therefore there right to participate in free elections. They can't be members of the community anymore because they have selected their path and forfeited that right.
The impact of Human Rights Act 1998 in UK was critical. There were areas in the society that improved from the Act but also areas that get worst. One of these areas that get worst is the voting of prisoners. My answer to the question: should prisoners have the right to vote, is negative. Convict prisoners as I said before have chosen their path. I don't share the opinion that they are still members of the society, still amenable to its laws. They have been opted out of their society because prisoners, specifically the convicted, have committed grave crimes against their communities. If somebody has as main aim to break the rules of a society and therefore become a criminal, what is the reason to participate in a game intended to create more law? Moreover when they are in jail, they offer nothing to the community in terms of money, social wealth ness and so on. The right to vote is a privilege for people, who are working, contribute to the society. They should stop trying to prove that they have every human right like any other ‘free' citizen of a community because the reason why they are in jail is because they breach someone else's human rights and these are the remedies of their actions. The only group of prisoners that I believe can have a second chance to be part of the society again are these with short prison sentence, I think they deserve the effort.
1. Human Rights in the UK: An introduction to the Human Rights Acts 1998.
1. Times Online – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/
2. Direct Gover. - http://www.direct.gov.uk/en