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Human Rights Law Directions

Human Rights Law Directions (5th edn)

Howard Davis
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date: 30 March 2023

p. 29313. Article 7: no punishment without lawlocked

p. 29313. Article 7: no punishment without lawlocked

  • Howard DavisHoward DavisReader in Public Law, Bournemouth University


Without assuming prior legal knowledge, books in the Directions series introduce and guide readers through key points of law and legal debate. It discusses European Convention law and relates it to domestic law under the HRA. Questions, discussion points, and thinking points help readers to engage fully with each subject and check their understanding as they progress and knowledge can be tested by self-test questions and exam questions at the chapter end. This chapter focuses on Article 7, which prohibits the retrospective application of criminal laws. This means that a person should not be convicted for an offence that did not exist at the time he or she committed the acts in question, nor should any punishment they receive be one that was not available to the courts at that time. Article 7 also embodies the principle of legal certainty in the context of criminal law. In order for people to adjust their conduct accordingly, they must be able to know the laws that apply to them and be able to foresee the circumstances in which laws will be applied. As an aspect of the ‘rule of law’, Article 7 embodies the idea that the law should not be used arbitrarily.

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