Zoe Williams on Human Rights

Today there is a trivial polemic by Zoe Williams on the government’s Bill of Rights plans. It is riddled with mistakes. It is a good example of how columnists should not tackle topics they don’t understand.

In order, the errors I can spot are

The treatment of prisoners and the Human Rights Act are only partially related to one another: the most prominent intersection between the two was the European ruling during the last parliament that prisoners should get the vote

The decision establishing that the blanket ban on prisoners exercising the right to vote contravened the Convention was Hirst v UK (No 2)It was decided in 2005. Labour had five years in government to comply with it, and did not.

Under a new British bill of rights, soldiers and journalists are explicitly offered more protection from damages claims.

The source of this error is the Sunday Times report. You cannot bring claims against individual soldiers or journalists under the Act

In the first case, offences committed abroad will not be prosecutable, which represents a huge saving, given that £85m has so far been spent on claims from Iraq and Afghanistan alone.

This confuses the criminal and civil law. The Human Rights Act gives rise to no criminal offences which are ‘prosecutable’.

The Human Rights Act doesn’t even have compensation in its armoury

Yes it does, see section 9.

The Human Rights Act already says that judges should have regard to human rights violations yet not be bound by them.

think  this is a reference to the duty to take into account decisions of the European Court of Human Rights under s 2(1)(a). On its face however, it makes no sense.

the real threat is to Article 8 of the act

Article 8 is in the Convention. Acts are capitalised. It is wholly obscure why it is thought that Article 8 is peculiarly threatened.


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