Simon Hughes MP Vows To Keep Human Rights Act & Provide Access To Justice

Lawyers criticise Conservative proposals to scrap HRA which contain “a number of howlers” and “do not stand up to scrutiny”

The Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, Simon Hughes, has said that the Liberal Democrats would never denounce the Human Rights Act (HRA) nor undermine the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Hughes made the comments at the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow at the weekend, following the Tories’ proposal to scrap the Human Rights Act in favour of a new British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

Hughes slammed the proposals as a tactical move in order to win back voters who have defected to UKIP, and praised the ECHR as “the greatest single advance in the legal protection of human rights anywhere in the world”.

The Tories’ proposals, reported to have been drafted by Conservative QCs, have left lawyers reeling.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve QC told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the proposals contain a “number of howlers,” while human rights barrister, Gemma Lindfield of 7 Bedford Row, said that the planned reforms were “merely political rhetoric” and without any “sound legal basis”.

“The examples that are given as a reason to abolish the Human Rights Act 1998 do not stand up to scrutiny,” said Lindfield. “It is suggested that a new Bill of Rights will ensure that foreign prisoners wishing to resist deportation will not be able to rely on their article 8 right to a family life where they are not making a contribution to their children’s lives.”

Lindfield continued: “Such a person would be hard pushed to make that submission under the present scheme as they would not be able to show that their deportation was a disproportionate interference in their family life where they were not an active family member, and there would not be a negative impact on the child, over and above the ordinary.”

Lindfield criticised the government for failing to mention the margin of appreciation, whereby the European Court of Human Rights considers whether a member state of the ECHR has breached the convention, when these plans were discussed.

At the Lib Dem party conference, Hughes also said that he was currently working to deliver more help and support for those who represent themselves in the family justice system, and address the question of how to support litigants in person, without, “needing to give them lawyers.”

He said that, irrespective of funding, he wanted to give everybody who came to court “the opportunity to talk through with people exactly what the issues are.”

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