What is the Humans Rights Act?

he Human Rights Act is an act of parliament of the United Kingdom. Its main aim is to "give further effect" in UK law to the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. The act makes it available to settle court cases in UK courts, without the need to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It also totally eliminated the death penalty in UK law. The Human Rights Act makes it illegal for members of the public to disobey the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.

These include: police, government departments and local councils. Even thought most court cases are solved in the UK, an individual can still takes his case to the Strasbourg court as a last resort. The Human Rights Act was set up on November 9 1998, but mainly came into force on October 2 2000. The reason why it was set up was because many people claimed that their rights under the European convention had been broken. In many cases, this court had decided that the British government had broken the European convention.

This led to many chances in the law in this country. Taking a case to the court in Strasbourg takes a long time. You can take a case to Strasbourg only if you fail to win your case in the UK under the Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Act follows 18 articles these include: Article 1: The protection of property: "Property" can include shares, pensions, welfare benefits or even the right to sue someone. The article says that the Government or a member of the public has no right to take your property away from you unless the law states that it can do.

Article 2: The right to life: you have the absolute right to have your life protected by the law. There are only certain very limited circumstances where it is acceptable for the government to take someone's life away, e. g. a police officer acting in self defence, they are trying to stop a riot or they are protecting someone else from illegal violence. It may also be used to argue that a patient should be able to get the treatment they need in able to save their life.

Article 3: Prohibition of torture: you have the right not to be tortured or subjected to treatment or punishment that is inhuman or degrading. It also prevents people being deported to a country where they are likely to be tortured or sent to face criminal charges in a country where they might face the death penalty. Some examples where the article might be used are in cases where social services have failed to children from severe abuse and prisoners or people in hospital who have been treated very badly.

Article 4: Prohibition of slavery and forced labour: you have the right not to be treated as a slave or forced to perform certain kinds of labour you don't want to. However, this does not include work that prisoners have to do while they are in prison or people who have work contracts that agree to help voluntarily.

Article 5: Right to liberty and security: you have the right to liberty and security of person. No one can be deprived of their liberty. The law must be clear about how and when people can be detained.

The laws says that these are the only cases when people can be detained: if they have been convicted of an offence and been sentenced to go to prison, if they have disobeyed a court order to make them do something that the law says that they must do (paying a fine), if there is enough evidence to suspect that they have committed a crime or to stop someone running away if they have committed a crime, if they are mentally ill, an alcoholic, a drug addict. Drug addicts can't be detained just because they are addicts, the court needs evidence to prove that they are a risk to others around them.

Article 5 gives people who have been arrested or detained the right to: be told why they have been arrested, be taken to court quickly, bail, to be tried within a reasonable time.

Article 6: Right to a fair trial: you have the right to a fair and public trail and sets standards for the way hearing should be run. You have a right to: a trail within a reasonable time, an independent judge, a public hearing (although in some circumstances the public is not allowed to watch), have the judge's decision made public and know the judge's reasons for his decision.

There are extra rights in criminal cases. These are the rights to be presumed innocent until you have been proved guilty, be told at an early stage what you are being accused of, remain silent you cannot be forced to answer questions, have enough time to prepare your defence, have legal aid for a lawyer if you cannot afford one, be present at your trial, put your side of the case across at your trail, question the witness against you and have your own witness and have an in interpreter in you need one.

Article 7: No punishment without law: you have the right to not be found guilty of a crime that you committed if at the time you committed it, it wasn't a criminal offence. It also states that Parliament can not backdate a law that increases the length of time you could be sent to prison or introduce a new punishment for an offence. The law must be clear so that people know whether they are committing a crime.

Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life: you have the right to have respect for your family, your private life, your home and correspondence.

This means that you have the right to get on with your life without interference, develop your own personality and form friendships and relationships with other people, and enjoy your sexuality. Family life means your relationship with your close family. This includes a man and woman who aren't yet married but who live in a stable relationship. Your home means where you live. The right to respect for your home does not mean that you have the right to be given a home if you do not have one. Your correspondence means your phone calls and letters, as well as e-mails.

Article 9: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion: you have the right to have a broad range of views, beliefs and thoughts and to follow your own religious faith. However, the right to protest your beliefs may be limited in specified circumstances. You cannot be forced to follow a religion.

Article 10: Freedom of expression: you have the right to have your own opinions and express your own views, even if those views are unpopular or disturbing. Journalist and people who publish newspapers or magazines can use the article to argue there should be no restrictions on what they can write.

However, you have to make sure it doesn't prevent any crime, it protects morals, it protects other people's rights or reputations and protects confidential information.

Article 11: Freedom of assembly and association: you have the right to protest peacefully by holding meetings and demonstrations. However, the police may have to protect people holding a meeting or demonstration from anyone who tries to stop it. It also gives you the right to form or join a political party or any other group and also the right to belong to a trade union.

Equally article 11 gives you the right to not have to join a union. The police have the right to ban or restrict demonstrations if they believe they are going too far or are unnecessary.

Article 12: Right to marry: you have the right to get married and start a family as long as you are old enough. Traditionally, this did not include same-sex couples or transgender people. However, courts have recently allowed transgender people to have the right to marry in their new gender. The right to start a family may apply only to people who are married. If you are not married you have to rely on article 8 to argue for their right to have children.

Article 14: Prohibition of discrimination: you have the right not to be treated differently because of your race, religion, sex and political views. However these aren't the only prohibitions some others include non-marital (born into a single parent family), unmarried, gay or lesbian, prisoner and they are likely to cover cases that involve disabilities. You can argue that you are been discriminated against on other grounds as well, however you must have proof that it is linked to a personal characteristic.