Human Rights: The Case for the Defence ; the Conservative Party Launched a Campaign Yesterday to `Curb the Rights Culture'. but Can All Their Charges Be Taken at Face Value?

Article excerpt

lVOLUME OF CLAIMS

THE CHARGE According to David Davis, who launched the Conservatives' campaign yesterday, the Human Rights Act has been responsible for an "escalating volume of `rights' claims against the criminal justice system and other public bodies".

THE DEFENCE Research conducted by the courts and government agencies points to no more than a small increase in the number of cases brought under the Human Rights Act since October 2000. In a report published last year, Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights reported there was nothing to suggest that human rights litigation had taken hold in Britain. It said: "We have not found evidence of the rapid development of awareness of a culture of respect for human rights and its implications throughout society, and what awareness there is often appears partial or ill-informed. We fear ... awareness of human rights is ebbing, within public authorities and the public."

lCOMPENSATION CULTURE

THE CHARGE The Human Rights Act has spawned too many spurious rights. "It has fuelled a compensation culture out of all proportion."

THE DEFENCE The idea that that Britain is in the grip of a US- style compensation culture has been exposed as myth. According to the Government's better regulation task force, there is no actual compensation culture in the UK. Its report earlier this year said the number of successful claims was falling at a rate of nearly 60,000 in 2003-04. What Mr Davis does not state is that many of the successful human rights cases have led to the improvement in living conditions of thousands of vulnerable people in Britain.

l RISE IN CASE-LOAD

THE CHARGE Since the European Convention on Human Rights was enshrined in British law, there has been a twentyfold rise in the number of cases in the areas it deals with, with "a serious effect on the operation of the law". Between 1975 and 1996, Mr Davis says, the convention was considered in 316 cases in the UK and affected the outcome, reasoning or procedure in 16 of those. In the 18 months after the Act came into force, it was considered in 431 cases and affected the outcome in 318 of those.

THE DEFENCE There are no reliable figures for all cases involving European human rights law before the HRA

came into force and Mr Davis does not identify the basis for his research. …