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7 The Human Rights Act

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Download The Human Rights Act (PDF File, 77kb)

1. Introduction

2. Where did the Human Rights Act start?

3. How does the Human Rights Act work?

4. What can I do if I think my rights have been broken?

If you think a public authority has breached your Convention rights (or that it is going to do so), you can take court proceedings against them. You have to show that you have been affected by what the public authority has done or is going to do.

You can apply for a procedure called a 'judicial review' if:

  • you want to change a decision made by a public authority; or
  • you want the court to order a public authority to do something or stop doing something.

Under judicial review, a judge will look at your case and decide if the public authority has acted illegally. You have to start proceedings quickly, and at the latest within three months of the authority's decision or action you are challenging.

If you just want compensation because your Convention rights have been breached, you can bring a claim for damages. You have to bring the case within a year of your rights being breached.

A court can award you compensation if it finds that your Convention rights have been breached. But the court may choose not to award you compensation if it decides that simply finding that your rights were broken is enough. The European Court of Human Rights has decided to do this in many cases. British courts have to take account of the amount of damages that the Court in Strasbourg awards. This tends to be a lot less than awards in the British courts.

You may also be able to rely on your Convention rights if you are defending yourself in court. This will happen most often in criminal cases, but it may also happen, for example, if a local council is trying to evict a council tenant.

Sometimes a court won't be able to do anything about your rights being breached. The Human Rights Act doesn't allow the courts to overrule an Act of Parliament. If a particular Act of Parliament doesn't fit in with Convention rights, all the British courts can do is to make what 's called a 'declaration of incompatibility'. The Government and Parliament then have to decide if the law should be changed. But until or unless that happens, the courts have to apply the law as it is, even though it does not fit in with Convention rights. The courts will not be able to award you any compensation.

If you find yourself in this situation, you could think about applying to the European Court of Human Rights, because the Court in Strasbourg can award compensation.

5. Which cases doesn't the Act cover?

6. The Articles of the Act in detail

7. The protocols of the Act in detail

8. Further Help

9. About this leaflet

This leaflet was written by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) in association with Liberty.


Leaflet Version:  September 2017

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Last updated on 02 March 2019

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