The Ministry of Justice held a consultation on proposals to reform the Human Rights Act 1998 and replace it with a ‘modern bill of rights’. Solace submitted a response to this consultation, building on the work of the British Institute for Human Rights, Liberty, Women’s Aid and the Centre for Women’s Justice, rejecting the Government’s proposals on the grounds that they risk watering down, not strengthening, human rights.
Acts of violence against women and girls are violations of human rights, and the Human Rights Act is an essential piece of legislation that helps to ensure justice for women and children experiencing violence. It provides a mechanism to hold institutions to account when they fail to keep women safe. The Human Rights Act has been instrumental in bringing cases against individual police forces when they have failed in domestic homicide, rape, and trafficking cases, requiring them to change the way they work in response to male violence against women and girls.
In our response, we highlight particular concern over the Government’s proposal to address positive obligations to prevent public service priorities being ‘impacted by costly human rights legislation’. Services like Solace often rely on the positive obligations in the Human Rights Act in a preventative way by highlighting to public authorities their duties to women and children escaping abuse and preventing a case from reaching the courts.
Any watering down of the current legislation could prevent women accessing justice, diminish the ability to hold public services accountable for their failures and prevent improvements being made in the way women and girls are protected.