Driving a coach and horses through human rights protections and legal certainty risks damaging the UK’s international standing and could impact its attraction as a place to do business, the Law Society has said in an initial response to the government’s plan to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. The proposals, unveiled by the lord chancellor on Tuesday, are at odds with the advice of the independent expert review panel, the Society said.  

Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said:  ’Any reform of this subtle and carefully crafted legal instrument must be led by evidence not driven by political rhetoric. The so-called Bill of Rights would make life easier for government at great cost to the nation, eroding our rights, placing the UK outside the international community and on a collision course with the European Court of Human Rights,’ she said.

The most damaging proposal for access to justice is for a ‘serious disadvantage’ test for bringing a human rights claim to the courts, Boyce said. That ’would lead to a culture of disrespect for human rights in decision-making, with rights breaches that might be seen as “low level” becoming acceptable because they could no longer be challenged, despite being against the law.’

Meanwhile, the proposal to take claimants’ past behaviour into a ccount ’would overturn the principle that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law – and would mean the state could violate some people’s rights without consequence’.

Proposals that foreign offenders should be forbidden from appealing a deportation order except in specific and narrow circumstances, or blocked from protecting their rights, without any consideration for how long they have lived in the UK, the family they have here or their familial and social connections in the country to which they would be deported are ’disproportionate and unnecessary’, she said. ’No rights-respecting nation should be prepared to take forward these suggestions.’

Reform of S2 of the Human Rights Act requirement for UK courts to ‘take into account’ rulings of the European Court of Human Rights ’would set us ever more adrift from the international community and would make the UK a far less attractive place for international dispute resolution,’ she said. 

The Society will be respond to the government’s consultation in detail in the coming months.