The initially was founded after the Second World

The European
Convention on Human Rights is an International Treaty, which was drafted in
1950. The Council of Europe originally created the treaty, with 47 states
including UK all signed up to it. With about 10 founding members at the
beginning of its existence, including the UK with Winston Churchill being the
leading figure that actively spoke out for a need in the existence of the ECHR.

The Council of Europe initially was founded after the Second World War to
protect the rule of law, to promote democracy across Europe and to ensure that
something as catastrophic such as the holocaust never happens again. Most
importantly their existence was to protect the rights of all humans, through
reaffirming their profound belief in fundamental freedoms, most Governments
sign up to the ECHR to make a legal commitment to all citizens of their country
that their rights and freedoms must and will be protected, in order to increase
their political legitimacy.

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The European
Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is a list of 14 articles
and 16 protocols that protect the people and the government in any country,
which has signed up to it. Out of all the articles within the ECHR there are
about five key articles, all of them sharing importance, but these five I found
to be the most important, ‘Article 10 being the freedom of expression’ which
protects the right to freedom to hold opinions expressing what they wish
regardless of the frontiers. ‘Article 2 being the right to life’; individuals
are not to be deprived of their life intentionally, this article safeguards
your right to live.  Unless in a
situation where in order to lawfully arrest or to prevent the escape of a
person. ‘Article 3 being the prohibition of torture’ this article protects you
from being tortured, where no one shall be subjected to inhuman treatment or
punishment. ‘Article 4 being the prohibition of slavery and forced labour’, no
one shall be held in slavery or servitude, this article protects you if your
are under risk, being held against your own. Lastly ‘Article 6 the right to a
fair trial’, where everyone is entitled to a fair public hearing, protecting
your right to have a fair trial with a lawyer present in a fair amount of time
provided. Meaning anyone charged with a criminal offence is innocent until
proven guilty.

 

The UK has been
developing the citizens human rights since the Magna Carta was enforced in
1215, not shortly after was when the Bill of Rights was developed, then the ECHR
and the most recent being the HRA 1998.

Before the ECHR,
anyone that lived in the UK that had a legal case that they wished to present
in court had to travel all the way to European courts to argue their case, it
has now become much easier because their Human Rights are protected within the
UK courts without having to travel to Strasbourg. However the HRA was
originally a law passed in 1998, this law was passed to re-instate
Parliamentary Sovereignty, because when this law was passed, it meant that
judges will tend to apply an act of Parliament even if that act provides for
the application of a judicial authority from a foreign court. The judges could
no longer ignore or dispense any law enacted by parliament, to do so they would
have to enforce the Bill of Rights.

 

In the UK we have
a un-codified constitution, meaning the UK’s laws are not written on a single
document, meaning the our laws and much more flexible, it is very easy to
remove and pass on laws through parliament because of this, meaning it is not
entrenched. The government in the UK is somewhat accused of abusing its powers
at the cost of an individuals rights, but this was over seen after the passing
of the HRA 1998. This means that if we wanted to get rid of the Human Rights
Act then we only need one more seat in majority. However in America they have a
codified constitution meaning that it is entrenched, so their constitution is
written in one single document. This means that the US constitution is very
inflexible, meaning the government cannot exploit its citizens as the
constitution protects all rights of the people from being violated and itself.

America has something called the Bill of Rights within their constitution that
serves to protect citizens from excess governmental power, it accomplishes this
through ensuring there is a separation of powers, one example would be the
Sixth Amendment where through all criminal prosecutions, they have the right to
a fair, speedy and public trial and to also have a assistance of counsel for
his defense. This means that the Congress cannot make a law, which overlaps or
attempts to over rule this persons right to free trial.

 

The European Court
of Human Rights, founded in 1959, is a judicial body that ensures the rights
that are enforced within the European Convention on Human rights are protected.

Since the 1st November 1998 there has been one court that lies
within the heart of France in Strasbourg. The council of Europe runs this
court, since then has dealt with over 50,000 cases. The ECHR has had a large
impact on the UK courts as well as the Human Rights laws.

 

One case to
support this would be the transsexual marriage refusal, where Christine Goodwin,
was prevented from marrying a man because she was a transsexual and could not
get a new birth certificate even after completing all surgeries to complete the
transition from a male to female. She took her case to the European court of
Human rights, arguing that her right to private life and right to marriage had
been violated. The court agreed that her right to marriage had been breached
therefore resulting in An Act of Parliament being passed, the gender
Recognition act 2004 which gives legal recognition to transsexual people and
allows them to obtain a new birth certificate and marry whom they desire.

 

An example where
the UK laws have been affected and a new law was passed, would be phone hacking
now being a crime, the reason behind this being Alison Halfords case in 1997
where the UK’s interception raised a few alarms. She sued the Merseyside police
for sexual discrimination, because of her being the top female officer in the
country, her phone calls made from her home and work place were allegedly hacked,
they attempted to gather information from these hacks and use it against her in
court. But the courts argued her rights had been breached. This case resulted
in the Regulation of investigatory powers act 2000 law being passed which makes
it illegal for any person to intentionally, without a lawful authority’s
consent to intercept any information whether public or private.

Similarly, one of
the first cases decided by the UK’s highest court after the HRA’s existence
fell into place, was the right to private correspondence with their lawyers for
prisoners. Prisoners letters in the UK where being read by officers in charge before
the actual prisoners which is initially breaching they’re right to privacy and
confidentiality. Whilst there are valid reasons to check through prisoner’s
mails, this is potentially the officer’s abusing their positions. There was a
policy introduced that allowed the letters to be checked by officers, Mr. Daly
challenged this using the HRA, to prove that his rights were being breached.

The judges in the Supreme Court agreed that rights were breached under the
common law. The opinion was given in May 2001 and the prisoner’s case was
accepted.

 

There was also a
case where the UK’s interrogation techniques were put to question after it was
used on 14 detainees, in 1978. The European Courts ruled that the five
techniques being used were inhumane and degrading but not classed as torture.

The UK would use these interrogation techniques on members of an Irish
terrorist group such as the IRA. The five techniques were said to have left
psychological and psychical damage to the detainees. This was the first time in
the history of a courtroom where two states argued directly against one
another. The European courts agreed that the interrogation techniques were too
deeply enforced and should not be used, despite this; the UK still remains
using the same techniques.

 

In previous years,
battling cases and enforcing rights in the UK was tricky and required
travelling abroad, judges can now do this here in the UK. Judges can also call
for a declaration of incompatibility, designed to maintain constitutional
structures while protecting rights within a constitution. The declaration of
incompatibility does not and cannot degrade any act of parliament, meaning
parliamentary supremacy is protected, this is because parliament is sovereign
and any law that courts disagree with; there must be a vote for its removal.

 

 

To conclude, the
European convention on human rights act has favorably changed the UK law, increasing
both the role of the courts in preserving rights and protecting the rights of
individuals. With the Human rights act there is always room for improvement and
room for extending the human rights, which of course must be done through
Parliament, as all power lies within there.