Lawyers have hit out at the government’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act, over claims it is an attack on the rule of law that risks undermining Britain’s international reputation.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said the plans risk ruining Britain’s reputation “with trade partners, business, and in the international arena,” as she warned the move signals a “deepening of the government’s disregard for the checks and balances that underpin the rule of law”.
The Law Society president said the plan could call “into question Britain’s honour and trustworthiness as an international partner,” as she said the proposals will “make the state less accountable”.
The comments come as the government yesterday introduced a bill to scrap the Human Rights Act 1998 – which enshrines the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law – with a view to replacing it with a Bill of Rights.
Speaking to parliament, justice minister Dominic Raab said: “Our Bills of Rights will strengthen our proud tradition of freedom, it will demarcate a clearer separation of powers.”
“It will ensure greater respect for our democratic institutions and it will better protect the public and restore a healthy dose of common sense to the justice system which is essential for commanding public confidence,” the justice secretary said. “Ultimately it will make us freer, it will help keep our streets safer.”
However, Sophie Kemp, a partner at London law firm Kingsley Napley, said the plans come as “another Orwellian turn from this government,” that risks acting as a “retrograde step” for British society.
The government says the new bill will curb “bogus human rights claims” by forcing people to show they have suffered a “significant disadvantage” before their claims are heard.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) also said the bill will aid deportations by restricting the circumstances in which individuals are able to claim a right to family life.
The new bill comes after a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg last week thwarted the government’s plans to send migrants to Rwanda, after a last-minute ruling blocked the deportation of an Iraqi asylum seeker.
Stephanie Boyce said the Bill of Rights will “grant the government greater unfettered power over the people,” as she argued the plans come as a “lurch backwards for British justice.”
The comments come after criminal barristers this week voted in favour of plans to strike against the government over legal aid fees.