BOOK REVIEW

Business and the Human Rights Act 1998, by Michael Smyth, published by Jordans (ISBN 085308565)

Think Human Rights Act 1998 and by now most of us are probably ready to emit a quiet groan.

But for all the recent debate about the implementation of the act and, above all, the impact it will have in criminal cases, there has been relatively little focus on what it means for directors and managers in the world of commerce and industry.

Yet the act will allow companies, as well as individuals, direct access to certain guarantees contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. Furthermore, disciplinary proceedings by regulatory authorities, the investigation of white collar crime and the activities of the media will all be influenced by the act, with inevitable knock-on effects for business.

Smyth somehow managed to write this volume without giving up his day job as head of public law at Clifford Chance, a factor which enabled him to draw on departmental expertise, as well as his own extensive experience and on contributions from London-based chambers Serle Court and 39 Essex Street.

The book is aimed at non-specialists and geared to in-house lawyers and their commercial clients. It looks specifically at privacy, freedom of expression, protection of property and fair trial issues.

Smyth begins with a look at the historical backdrop to the act and at how the Strasbourg machinery works. But the book's main remit is to examine the rights that the act aims to protect and that are relevant to corporate trading activity. It becomes clear that businesses will have a new weapon in challenging the actions of government and public authorities.

Particular focus is also given to the consequences for companies likely to be designated public authorities, for the purposes of the act, as a result of their public roles, and which will potentially be exposed to claims. This is a valuable guide for those who could find themselves facing regulatory inquiries, data protection complaints, tax disputes and so on.

Existing convention case-law is used to assess the practical implications for business, making this a comprehensive, as well as authoritative, guide for those who will need to advise their companies on the risks and opportunities presented by the act.