Barristers rail against Howard

Top human rights barristers are warning that Conservative Party plans to “review or repeal” the Human Rights Act (HRA) could lead a Tory government into conflict with the judiciary.


Top human rights barristers are warning that Conservative Party plans to “review or repeal” the Human Rights Act (HRA) could lead a Tory government into conflict with the judiciary.

Conservative leader Michael Howard QC made the announcement last Monday (21 March) as part of proposed action against illegal travellers’ camps if his party comes into power.

The announcement said: “The measures include reviewing the Human Rights Act, and scrapping it if it can’t be improved.”

Although there is no constitutional or legislative impediment to a repeal of the HRA, UK citizens would still have recourse to both the UK’s highest courts and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg if they felt their rights had been infringed.

Professor Conor Gearty, a founder member of Matrix Chambers, said: “If the Conservatives were to repeal the Human Rights Act they’d also need to put in place a strategy for dealing with ordinary public law cases which might well involve human rights, whether or not the act has been repealed.”

Doughty Street Chambers’ Gavin Millar QC added: “They’ll run into conflict with the senior judiciary.”

He explained that, even if the HRA was repealed by the Tories, the courts can declare UK legislation incompatible with Europe.