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Posted on April 15th, 2014, by

The introduction of the Human Rights Act in 1998 raised the heat debate in the UK society. The main issue was the risk of the loss of the UK sovereignty after the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998 because the Act intended to meet requirements of the European Convention of Human Rights and, more important, the Act was intended to put the European Convention into a superior position compared to the UK legislation and judicial system. As a result, opponents of the Human Rights Act 1998 argued that the Act put the legislative power in hands of judges, while proponents insisted that the Act brought rights home as citizens of the UK did not need to spend their money and time to argue for their rights in Strasbourg. Instead, they could do it in the UK since the Human Rights Act 1998 obliged judges to make their provisions compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. Nevertheless, the Human Rights Act 1998 was an essential legal act that adopted the European Convention of Human Rights in the UK and, in spite certain controversies, helped the UK to prepare its legislative and judicial system to the integration in the European Union, on the one hand, and to preserve the supremacy of the UK laws, on the other.

In fact, the EU integration was apparently the primary concern of the UK, when the Human Rights Act 1998 was implemented. This integration was driven by economic factors mainly. At the same time, the European integration of the UK implies legal and political changes along with economic one. However, the legal integration of the UK into the EU turns out to be more difficult than economic one. In this regard, the European Convention of Human Rights is one of the fundamental legal documents of the EU that was implemented in 1954 and became the core human rights legal act of the EU. Nevertheless, the UK had refused to fully implement the European Convention of Human Rights because the Convention contradicted to some legal norms, traditions and practices in the UK legislation and judicial practice. In fact, it is only in 1998, the UK has managed to Human Rights Act 1998 aimed at the adaptation of articles of the European Convention to the UK legal environment and made the Convention prior to legal acts of the UK, but the legal acts of the UK Parliament.  In such a way, the UK has made the first step toward the adaption of European legal norms and basic norms concerned human rights. However, the process of adaptation is quite difficult and confronts numerous challenges that force the UK policy makers to introduce amendments to the Human Rights Act 1998.

The introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998 confronted a strong criticism from the part of Conservatives, who argued that the Act put the legislative power in hands of judges. The main reason for such argument was the priority of the European Convention of Human rights in the course of decision making by judges. To put it more precisely, the Human Rights Act 1998 required courts to interpret both primary and subordinate legislation so that their previsions were compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. At first glance, the criticism of the Act by Conservatives turns out to be reasonable because judges could identify any legal norm of the UK as incompatible with the European Convention and they would discharge this norm. Therefore, legislators would lose their legislative power, if their legal initiatives contradict to the European Convention of Human Rights but not to the UK laws. However, such a view on the Human Rights Act 1998 was a bit superficial because courts could not make legal acts of the UK Parliament incompatible with the European Convention. In such a way, the UK legislators have preserved the sovereignty of the UK legislation and granted the Parliament with the power to issue any legal norms as far as they meet norms and standards of the UK legislation, regardless of the European Convention of Human Rights.

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