THE number of businesses using the Human Rights Act to fight their legal disputes is rising, even as politicians debate replacing it with a British bill of rights.
Research shows the number of reported court cases where businesses used the act as part of their legal case jumped 63 per cent from 19 to 31 last year. Those cases now account for nine per cent of all reported human rights cases.
But 10 years after the Human Rights Act was adopted, it is facing fresh challenges from politicians who would rather Britain was not in thrall to Strasbourg rulings.
And last week’s MPs’ decision to defy the act, by deciding against voting rights for prisoners, has put its usefulness in the spotlight again.
Legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell said the number of businesses using the Human Rights Act has trebled since 2007-8. Firms last year used it in cases such as challenging a regulator’s decision as it could harm profitability, preventing media coverage on privacy grounds and asking the court for more time to prepare a case, because their access to justice would be hampered without it.
Sweet & Maxwell said the use of human rights arguments by businesses leapt in popularity after high profile High Court claims by hedge funds RAB Special Situations and SRM Global Master Fund. These funds argued the nationalisation of Northern Rock had deprived them of their property (their shares value) in breach of the Human Rights Act.
Stephen Grosz, co-author of a Sweet & Maxwell publication on Human Rights, said: “The Human Rights Act has been used in a much broader range of cases than most people would have predicted.”