Human Rights Act 1998

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Act of the United Kingdom Parliament incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into the domestic law of the United Kingdom. Until the Act entered into force, those alleging violations of the Convention by the British government had as their only recourse the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. The Act provides that proceedings to enforce the Convention may be taken in the British domestic courts, though a case may still be brought in Strasbourg as a final resort.

The Human Rights Act applies to the United Kingdom government. Stronger provisions exist for the devolved Scottish administration under the Scotland Act 1998, which provides that the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament have no power to do anything contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Human Rights Act, by contrast, provides only that:

  • (a) laws, wherever possible, shall be interpreted so as not to conflict with the Convention
  • (b) where the law cannot be reinterpreted to avoid conflict with the Convention, a declaration of incompatibility can be made with respect to the law; however, this does not serve to invalidate the legislation. Parliament has to respond to the declaration of incompatibility by amending or repealing the offending law.