Set date for Rights Act, says Justice

The director of legal human rights group Justice has called for the Government to stop “paddling around in the shallow end” and name a year 2000 date for the Human Rights Act (HRA) to start.

A Home Office spokeswoman told The Lawyer the aim is to bring the Act into force sometime next year, but admits it may slip into 2001.

Justice's Anne Owers concedes that a lot of preparation is required before the Act can be implemented, but says delay will only cause confusion.

She says, for example, that the Asylum Act – due to come into force next year – gives rights of appeal under the HRA and there is no telling what will happen if there is a big gap before the HRA is brought in.

However, Professor John Griffith – author of The Politics of the Judiciary – says he is not surprised that the Act is likely to be delayed, since the practical problems involved are considerable.

He says it is also unclear how judges will interpret the Act. “Will they make abortion illegal or euthanasia legal? Will the withholding of adequate levels of benefit or health care be held to threaten the “right to life”?… What changes will be made under the right to fair trial provisions?” he asks.