Threat to human rights in new Victims and Prisoners Bill
Hidden amongst the Victims and Prisoners Bill is a dangerous removal of Human Rights Act protections from prisoner release decisions. This erodes access to justice rights applying to all.
Amongst all the justified outrage about the Government’s Rwanda legislation, there is another piece of legislation quietly making its way through Parliament that threatens our universal human rights protections in the UK.
While the Victims and Prisoners Bill includes valuable provisions to improve support for victims of crime, down in Part 3 of the Bill there is a dangerous rollback of rights.
This part specifically removes Human Rights Act (HRA) cover from laws governing release, licence and recall of all people who have been imprisoned. Judges would lose their duty to make decisions in line with human rights standards and decisions affecting rights like liberty, family life and access to a fair hearing would all be weighted against the prisoner.
The Victims and Prisoners Bill passed its Commons stages with surprisingly little scrutiny of its human rights implications. With the Bill starting its passage through the House of Lords on Monday 18th December, groups including Amnesty UK and Liberty, but also penal reform groups like the Howard League and the Prison Reform Trust, are sounding the alarm about Part 3’s long-term human rights damage.
Once governments are able to legislate in this way on one occasion, we start finding the same approach branching out into all sorts of other issues. The Victims and Prisoners Bill, for example, follows very similar provisions that removed rights protections from people caught by the terms of the Illegal Migration Act, which was passed in the summer.
The UK government was not stopped when it affected asylum seekers. We hope they can be stopped now that it affects prisoners. If they are not, there is no reason to think they, or any future government, will be stopped from going after the human rights of other groups that a political advantage can be gained from attacking. Right now, we are seeing an even more aggressive attack on human rights and the role of independent courts with the Rwanda legislation, which switches off the vast majority of the Human Rights Act and seeks to compel courts to accept facts without being able to consider the evidence. In such a world, it would become impossible to defend your rights at all.
They came for migrants, now they come for prisoners - this government is on a mission to cherry pick who keeps basic human rights protections. We cannot sacrifice equal rights or the rule of law.
If rights aren’t applied to some, human rights don’t exist for anyone. Without universally applied, legally enforceable rights, we are all vulnerable.
Read more about The Human Rights Act here.
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