Ex-Court of Appeal judge Sir Peter Gross will lead an independent review of the Human Rights Act as Justice Secretary Robert Buckland says ‘the time is right to consider’ if the laws are still fit for purpose but Labour blasts the plans as ‘bonkers’
- Former judge Sir Peter Gross will lead independent review of Human Rights Act
- The review will consider whether the legislation needs to be updated or changed
- Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said ‘the time is right’ to see if Act is working
- Launch of review sparked an immediate backlash as Labour labelled it ‘bonkers’
A former Court of Appeal judge has been appointed by the Government to lead an independent review into whether the Human Rights Act is still fit for purpose.
Sir Peter Gross and his panel of experts will look at the legislation to see if it needs to be updated after more than two decades on the statute book.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland made the announcement today as he said ‘the time is right to consider whether the Human Rights Act is still working effectively’.
The launch of the review follows a 2019 Tory manifesto commitment to examine the law and update it to make sure ‘there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government’.
However, Mr Buckland’s announcement sparked an immediate backlash as Labour claimed there is ‘no need for a review’ and labelled the decision to launch it during the coronavirus crisis as ‘bonkers’.
Meanwhile, campaigners warned tearing up parts of the Human Rights Act would represent a ‘giant leap backwards’.
Sir Peter Gross has been appointed by the Government to lead an independent review of the Human Rights Act
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said ‘the time is right to consider whether the Human Rights Act is still working effectively’
Sir Peter Gross is a retired Lord Justice who has an eminent legal career spanning more than 40 years.
The 68-year-old retired from the Court of Appeal last year and he will now lead what promises to be one of the most controversial legal reviews in recent years.
Sir Peter is one of the most experienced legal professionals in the country and was called to the Bar in 1977 and became a Queen’s Counsel in 1992.
In July 2010, he was made a Lord Justice of Appeal, and was subsequently appointed to the Privy Council in 2011.
He became Deputy Senior Presiding Judge in October 2011, and was Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales from January 2013 to December 2015.
He later was appointed Lead Judge for International Relations in January 2018.
The review is expected to publish its recommendations in the Summer next year and it will consider the relationship between the UK’s domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights.
It will also examine the impact of the Act on the relationship between the judiciary, government and Parliament, and specifically on whether courts are being ‘unduly drawn into areas of policy’.
It is thought one of the outcomes of the review could be limiting the power of judges to block the deportation of serious foreign criminals.
Last week the Home Office was blocked from deporting 23 serious criminals to Jamaica after 11th-hour legal challenges backed by Labour MPs and celebrities.
But ministers insist the review has not come off the back of any particular cases and is instead a broader examination of the legislation.
Mr Buckland said: ‘Human rights are deeply rooted in our constitution and the UK has a proud tradition of upholding and promoting them at home and abroad.
‘After 20 years of operation, the time is right to consider whether the Human Rights Act is still working effectively.
‘I am grateful to Sir Peter Gross and his esteemed panel for undertaking this timely and important piece of work and look forward to his findings.’
Sir Peter said: ‘The Act constitutes a most important part of our legal framework; IHRAR will entail an independent process of careful reflection to consider its workings, together with whether and, if so, what, reforms might be justified.’
Labour immediately criticised the review. Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said: ‘It is bonkers that the Government is prioritising launching an attack on human rights in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Unlike the Conservatives, Labour is proud of this country’s leading role in developing human rights following the second world war.
‘There is no need for a review into the rights and freedoms that underpin our democracy and all of us enjoy.’
Campaigners also expressed opposition to the review as they claimed it represented an attempted ‘power grab’ by the Government.
Sam Grant, head of policy and campaigns at Liberty, said the Act ‘must be protected for the good of our democracy’, adding: ‘For years, our laws and legal processes have made sure that governments and public bodies can be challenged when they make bad decisions.
‘The plans announced today and over the past six months are focused on limiting our ability to do this.’
Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy said the decision to launch a review of the Human Rights Act during the coronavirus crisis was ‘bonkers’
Amnesty International UK warned tearing up the Human Rights Act would represent a ‘giant leap backwards’.
The campaign group’s director Kate Allen said: ‘From Hillsborough to Grenfell to the appalling mishandling of the recent Covid crisis in care homes, we have never so badly needed a means to hold the Government to account, and we know that the Human Rights Act does that extremely effectively.
‘It took ordinary people a very long time to win these rights and we mustn’t let politicians take them away with the stroke of a pen.
‘This looks worryingly like the latest power-grabbing move from a Government that doesn’t like limits on its powers or judges who tell them when they break the law.’
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