The Human Rights Act 1998

The Human Rights Act protects all of us – young and old, rich and poor. It means that we can defend our rights in the courts and that public organisations, including the Government, the Police and local authoritie, must treat everyone equally, with fairness, dignity and respect.

Rights and freedoms granted by the Act

Part I – Convention rights and freedoms

2Right to life
Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.
3Prohibition of torture
No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
4Prohibition of slavery and forced labour
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
5Right to liberty and security
Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law.

Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him.

Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1(c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.

Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.

Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.
6Right to a fair trial
In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interests of justice.

Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:

  • to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;

  • to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;

  • to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;

  • to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;

  • to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

7No punishment without law
No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.
8Right to respect for private and family life
Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law.
9Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law.
10Freedom of expression
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law.
11Freedom of assembly and association

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law.
12Right to marry
Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.
14Prohibition of 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.
16Restrictions on political activity of aliens

Nothing in Articles 10, 11 and 14 shall be regarded as preventing the High Contracting Parties from imposing restrictions on the political activity of aliens.
17Prohibition of abuse of rights
Nothing in this Convention may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the Convention.
18Limitation on use of restrictions on rights
The restrictions permitted under this Convention to the said rights and freedoms shall not be applied for any purpose other than those for which they have been prescribed.

Part II – The first protocol

1Protection of property

Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
2Right to education

No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.
3Right to free elections

The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.

Summary of the main sections of the Act

1The Convention Rights.
In this Act “the Convention rights” means the rights and fundamental freedoms set out in Articles 2 to 12 and 14 of the Convention, Articles 1 to 3 of the First Protocol, and as read with Articles 16 to 18 of the Convention.

The Secretary of State may make amendments to the Act to reflect the effect of a protocol in relation to the United Kingdom.
2Interpretation of Convention rights.
3Interpretation of legislation.

Primary and subordinate legislation must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Convention rights.
4Declaration of incompatibility.

The following subsection applies in any proceedings in which a court determines whether a provision of primary legislation is compatible with a Convention right.

If the court is satisfied that the provision is incompatible with a Convention right, it may make a declaration of that incompatibility.
5Right of Crown to intervene.

Where a court is considering whether to make a declaration of incompatibility, the Crown is entitled to notice in accordance with rules of court.
6Act of public authorities.

It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.

A person who claims that a public authority has acted (or proposes to act) in a way which is made unlawful by section 6(1) may bring proceedings against the authority under this Act in the appropriate court or tribunal, or rely on the Convention right or rights concerned in any legal proceedings.

For the purposes of this section, a person is a victim of an unlawful act only if he would be a victim for the purposes of Article 34 of the Convention if proceedings were brought in the European Court of Human Rights in respect of that act.

Nothing in this Act creates a criminal offence.
8Judicial remedies

In relation to any act of a public authority which the court finds is unlawful, it may grant such relief or remedy, or make such order, within its powers as it considers just and appropriate. Damages may be awarded only by a court which has power to award damages, or to order the payment of compensation, in civil proceedings.

No award of damages is to be made unless, taking account of all the circumstances of the case, including any other relief or remedy granted, or order made, in relation to the act in question (by that or any other court), and the consequences of any decision (of that or any other court) in respect of that act, the court is satisfied that the award is necessary to afford just satisfaction to the person in whose favour it is made.

In determining whether to award damages or the amount of an award, the court must take into account the principles applied by the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the award of compensation under Article 41 of the Convention.
9Judicial acts.

Proceedings under section 7(1)(a) in respect of a judicial act may be brought only by exercising a right of appeal, on an application for judicial review or in such other forum as may be prescribed by rules.
10Power to take remedial action.

This section applies if a provision of legislation has been declared to be incompatible with a Convention right and, if an appeal lies

  • all persons who may appeal have stated in writing that they do not intend to do so;

  • the time for bringing an appeal has expired and no appeal has been brought within that time; or

  • an appeal brought within that time has been determined or abandoned; or

  • it appears to a Minister of the Crown or Her Majesty in Council that, having regard to a finding of the European Court of Human Rights made after the coming into force of this section in proceedings against the United Kingdom, a provision of legislation is incompatible with an obligation of the United Kingdom arising from the Convention.
If a Minister of the Crown considers that there are compelling reasons for proceeding under this section, he may by order make such amendments to the legislation as he considers necessary to remove the incompatibility.
11A person’s reliance on a Convention right does not restrict any other right or freedom conferred on him by or under any law having effect in any part of the United Kingdom; or
12Freedom of expression.

This section applies if a court is considering whether to grant any relief which, if granted, might affect the exercise of the Convention right to freedom of expression.
13Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

If a court’s determination of any question arising under this Act might affect the exercise by a religious organisation (itself or its members collectively) of the Convention right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, it must have particular regard to the importance of that right.