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The Changing Constitution

The Changing Constitution (9th edn)

Sir Jeffrey Jowell and Colm O'Cinneide
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date: 23 February 2024

p. 583. Human Rights and the UK Constitutionlocked

p. 583. Human Rights and the UK Constitutionlocked

  • Colm O’Cinneide


UK law relating to civil liberties and human rights has undergone radical transformation over the last few decades, in part because of the influence exerted by the European Convention on Human Rights (‘the ECHR’) on British law. The Human Rights Act 1998 (‘the HRA’), which incorporates the civil and political rights protected by the ECHR into national law, now plays a key role in the UK’s constitutional system. It complements legislative mechanisms for protecting individual rights—such as the Equality Act 2010 —and imposes significant constraints on the exercise of public power. However, the current state of UK human rights law is controversial. The HRA is regularly subject to political attack, while leading politicians bemoan the influence exerted by the ECHR over UK law: yet no consensus exists as to how human rights should best be protected within the framework of the British constitution. It remains to be seen whether Brexit will change the dynamics of this debate.

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