The Ministry of Justice today confirmed that it will ‘bring forward’ proposals for a British bill of rights, to replace the Human Rights Act, this autumn.
Justice minister Dominic Raab (pictured) told MPs during an oral questions session this morning that the proposals will be subject to ‘full consultation’ and that preparation was ‘going well’.
Raab, a former international lawyer, said the government needed to ensure ‘a sensible application and proper respect for the Supreme Court in this country and the democratic role of [MPs] when it comes to the legislative function, and our bill of rights and proposals will be looking in those areas’.
Raab said the ministry would take its time to get the bill right – in contrast to the Human Rights Act, which he said was ‘itself rushed’, with no period of consultation and introduced to parliament in six months.
‘That’s one of the reasons why it proved flawed in practice,’ he said. ‘We want to restore some balance to our human rights regime and that’s what a bill of rights will achieve.'
Though Raab would not be drawn on the substance of the proposals, he said ‘major problems’ were ‘less with the text of the European [human rights] convention but its application, and some of those arise because of judicial legislation, others with the operation of the Human Rights Act’.
Meanwhile, justice secretary Michael Gove announced that the government is to review the criminal courts charge.
The ministry introduced the fixed costs under the last government, charging defendants convicted in the magistrates’ court on a guilty plea £150 and £520 for those convicted after a magistrates’ court trial.
But Gove said it was important ‘not to rush to judgement’ and ensure the change was given time ‘to bed in’ so that the government could ‘inform an appropriate judgement in due course’.
Gove said he was made aware of ‘widespread concern’ about the operation of the criminal courts charge.
‘It is important to stress that the [charge] is only levied or taken from the offender after other fines have been paid,’ he said.
‘It is also important that the legislation is understood as having made clear that the charge should be linked to ability to pay, and the payment of that charge in due course should be linked to the offender’s means.'