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Too attentive to our duty: the fundamental conflict underlying human rights protection in the UK

  • Benedict Douglas (a1)

Abstract

Are we defined by the choices we make or the duties we owe? This paper argues that there is a conflict between the fundamental conception of the individual as possessing the capacity to choose how to live, which has been held to be the foundation of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the understanding of the individual as a bearer of duties which has long underpinned the UK Constitution. Through case law analysis, it is shown that the tension between these two understandings of the individual underlies the troubled acceptance of the Human Rights Act 1998, and influences the UK judiciary's substantive interpretations of the Convention rights. It is ultimately argued that for the Convention rights to be fully accepted in the UK, the evolution from a duty to a choice-based understanding of the individual, which was artificially accelerated by the Human Rights Act, must be more widely accepted by society and the courts.

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I am extremely grateful for the help and advice of Chris Castell, Emma Cave, Aoife O'Donoghue, Murat Erdoğan, Jack Hepworth, William Lucy, Roger Masterman, Matthew Nicholson, Shaun Pattinson, Rachel Scarfe and Marion Tait who read drafts of this paper; to Amanda Taylor Aiken whose conversation started the train of thought that led to this article; and to the anonymous reviewers for their comments and encouragement. Any errors are my own.

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1 Commission on a Bill of Rights A UK Bill of Rights? The Choice Before Us (London: Ministry of Justice, 2012) paras 88(v) and (vii); Ministry of Justice Rights and Responsibilities: Developing our Constitutional Framework (Cm 7577) paras 2.15, 2.17 and 2.20; and The Conservative Party ‘Protecting human rights in the UK’ (The Conservative Party 2014) pp 4 and 5, available at https://www.conservatives.com/~/media/files/downloadable%20Files/human_rights.pdf (accessed 1 June 2018).

2 Laws, J The Common Law Constitution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) pp 69 and 90.

3 (2002) 35 EHRR 1.

4 Möller, K The Global Model of Constitutional Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

5 Griffin, J On Human Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

6 Dworkin, RIs there a right to pornography?’ (1981) 1(2) OJLS 177.

7 [2005] UKHL 56.

8 [2009] UKHL 45.

9 [2014] UKSC 38.

10 Möller, above n 4, pp 3, 5, 10 and 13. The core features he identifies are: rights inflation; the protection of positive and socio-economic rights not just negative rights; the horizontal and vertical effect of rights; and the subjection of the vast majority of rights to a balancing and proportionality test.

11 Ibid, pp 15–16, 20, 30–33, 35 and 37–39.

12 Ibid, pp 63–71.

13 Ibid, p 58.

14 Ibid, p 59.

15 Ibid, pp 60–61.

16 Griffin, above n 5, pp 26, 31–33.

17 Ibid, p 45; McCrudden, CHuman dignity and judicial interpretation of human rights’ (2008) 19(4) EJIL 655 at 677, 680 and 697. cf B Douglas ‘Undignified rights: the importance of a basis in dignity for the possession of rights in the United Kingdom’ [2015] PL 241; and T Hannant ‘Still undignified rights: a disagreement with Benedict Douglas’ [2016] PL 555.

18 Griffin, above n 5, p 44.

19 Below text to n 108.

20 Pretty, above n 3, at [65].

21 Ibid, at [61].

22 Ibid, at [58].

23 Ibid, at [61].

24 Ibid, at [62].

25 Tyrer v UK (1979–80) 2 EHRR 1; SW & CR v UK (1996) 21 EHRR 363; and Christoffersen, J Fair Balance Proportionality, Subsidiarity and Primarity in the European Convention on Human Rights (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2009) pp 142145.

26 Tyrer, above n 25, at [33].

27 Ibid; and Griffin, above n 5, p 33.

28 SW, above n 25, at [44].

29 Ibid, at [44]–[45].

30 Goodwin v UK (2002) 35 EHRR 18.

31 Ibid, at [90].

32 Beyleveld, DThe principle of generic consistency as the supreme principle of human rights’ (2012) 13 HRR 1 at 7.

33 Möller, above n 4, p 88.

34 Art 8 ECHR.

35 Al Nashiri v Poland (2015) 60 EHRR 16 (Arts 3, 5 and 8); Mizzi v Malta (2008) 46 EHRR 27 (Arts 6 and 8); Sanchez Cardenas v Norway (2009) 49 EHRR 6 (Arts 6 and 8); Hoffmann v Austria (1994) EHRR 293 (Articles 8 and 9); Pay v United Kingdom (2009) 48 EHRR SE2 (Arts 8 and 10); Segerstedt-Wiberg v Sweden (2007) 44 EHRR 2 (Arts 8, 10 and 11); Dickson v United Kingdom (2007) 44 EHRR 21 (Arts 8 and 12); and Merger v France (2006) 43 EHRR 51 (Art 8 and Art 1 of Protocol 1).

36 Möller, above n 4, p 88 reaches the same conclusion with his conception of autonomy reductively derived from the Global Modal of Constitutional Rights.

37 Pretty, above n 3, at [58]; and ibid, pp 63 and 88.

38 Von Hanover v Germany (2012) 55 EHRR 15 at [95].

39 Möller, above n 4, pp 59–60.

40 Ibid, pp 62, 79 and 88.

41 Goodwin, above n 30, at [90]–[91].

42 Dworkin, above n 6, at 205.

43 Ibid, at 194 and 199.

44 Ibid, at 205–206 and 211–212.

45 Ibid, at 194.

46 Dworkin, R Taking Rights Seriously (London: Duckworth, 1997) p 172; and MacCormick, NRights in legislation’ in Hacker, P and Raz, J (eds) Law, Morality and Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977) p 192.

47 Ibid.

48 Commission on a Bill of Rights, above n 1; and below text to n 104.

49 eg A Wagner and H Chapman ‘The 14 worst human rights myths’ (Rights Info), available at http://rightsinfo.org/infographics/the-14-worst-human-rights-myths (accessed 1 June 2018); and Chakrabarti, S On Liberty (London: Penguin, 2015) pp 9293 and 132–133.

50 Kramer, MRights without trimmings’ in Kramer, M and others (eds) A Debate over Rights (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998) pp 6162.

51 Dworkin, above n 46, p 172; and MacCormick, above n 46, p 192.

52 Bagehot, W The English Constitution (first published 1867, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

53 Ibid, p 190.

54 Ibid, p 192.

55 Ibid, p 199. cf above text to n 42.

56 Ibid, pp 28 and 41–42.

57 Pagden, A The Enlightenment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) pp 250254; and Orton, DRoyal piety and Davidic imitation: cultivating political capital in the Alfredian psalms’ (2015) 99 Neophiologus 477 at 478, 480–481, 485 and 489–490.

58 R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) at [20], cf R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5 at [43] ‘Parliamentary sovereignty is a fundamental principle of the UK constitution…’ (emphasis added).

59 Miller, High Court, above n 58, at [20] and [22].

60 R v Secretary of State for Transport, ex p Factortame Ltd (No 2) [1991] 1 AC 603 at 658–659; Thoburn v Sunderland City Council [2002] EWHC 195 (Admin) at [62]–[64]; R (Countryside Alliance) v Attorney General [2007] UKHL 52 at [112]; Miller, High Court, above n 58, at [20] and [22]; and Laws, JConstitutional guarantees’ (2008) 29(1) Stat LR 1 at 3, 6–7 and 10.

61 Bingham, T The Rule of Law (London: Penguin, 2011) p 160.

62 Ibid, p 8.

63 British Nationality Act 1948.

64 Griffith, JAG The Politics of the Judiciary (London: Harper Collins, 5th edn, 1997) pp 296–297 and 338339.

65 Ibid, pp 297 and 339.

66 Malone v Metropolitan Police Commissioner [1979] Ch 344 at 357; and Countryside Alliance, above n 60, at [112].

67 Hobbes, T Leviathan (first published 1651, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) pp 147214 and 152.

68 Ishay, M The History of Human Rights (London: University of California Press, 2008) p 64.

69 Ibid, pp 71–72.

70 Pagden, above n 57, pp 2, 4 and 15–16.

71 Hampson, N The Enlightenment (London: Penguin, 1990) p 252; Ishay, above n 68, p 69; and ibid, p 15.

72 Ishay, above n 68, pp 65 and 75; and Hampson, above n 71, p 256.

73 Ishay, above n 68, pp 75 and 94.

74 Pagden, above n 57, pp 254–255.

75 Douglas, above n 17, at 245.

76 Ibid, at 246.

77 Bowring, J (ed) The Works of Jeremy Bentham (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1843) Vol II, p 51 and Vol III, pp 160 and 185.

78 Ibid, p 50.

79 Burke, E Reflection on the Revolution in France (first published 1867, London: Penguin, 2004) pp 148 and 152.

80 Ibid, pp 97–100 and 104.

81 Ibid, pp 117–119 and 151.

82 Macfarlane, A The Origins of English Individualism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994) pp 165166 and 197.

83 Ibid, pp 202–203.

84 Burke, above n 79, pp 117–119.

85 Representation of the People Act 1918 and Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928.

86 Wilkes, J The North Britain No 1 (London, 5 June 1762); Thomas, P John Wilkes: A Friend to Liberty (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996) pp 19 and 214; and Cash, A John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty (London: Yale University Press, 2006) pp 3, 68, 82 and 348–349.

87 Thomas, above n 86, pp 219 and 220; and Postgate, R That Devil Wilkes (London: Constable, 1930) pp 169 and 172.

88 Cash, above n 86, p 76.

89 Wilkes, J The North Britain No 33 (London, 15 January 1763); ibid, p 79; and Thomas, above n 86, pp 113, 122 and 216.

90 Paine, T Rights of Man, Common Sense and Other Political Writings (first published 1791, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995) pp 123, 142, 144, 249 and 398.

91 Dicey, AV Law and Public Opinion in England (London: Macmillan 1962) pp xcxci.

92 Ibid, pp xxix, xxx and lxxi.

93 Dicey, AV An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (London: Macmillan 1959) pp 42, 62, 207–208 and 239–240; and Dicey, above n 91, p xc.

94 Laws, JThe good constitution’ (2012) 71(3) CLJ 567 at 567.

95 Above n 85.

96 R (Wood) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2009] EWCA Civ 414 at [21].

97 Laws, above n 2, p 43; and Laws, above n 94, at 581.

98 R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex p Simms [2000] 2 AC 115 at 130 and 131; and Laws, above n 60, at 7.

99 Jackson, above n 7, at [102] and [159].

100 Ibid, at [159].

101 Magna Carta (Runnymede, 1215) at preamble and [61] (The British Library), available at https://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-english-translation (accessed 1 June 2018).

102 Bingham, above n 61, pp 12–13.

103 Government of Wales Act 1998; Northern Ireland Act 1998; and Scotland Act 1998.

104 Commission on a Bill of Rights, above n 1.

105 Government of Wales Act 2006, s 81; Northern Ireland Act 1998, s 24; and Scotland Act 1998, s 28(2)(d).

106 Macfarlane, above n 82, p 165.

107 Vote Leave ‘Taking back control from Brussels’ (Vote Leave 2016), available at http://www.voteleavetakecontrol.org/briefing_control.html (accessed 1 June 2018).

108 Marston, GThe United Kingdom's part in the preparation of the European Convention on Human Rights, 1950’ (1993) 42(4) ICLQ 796 at 811 and 823–824.

109 Ibid, at 806, 812 and 825.

110 Ibid, at 803–805; and E Wicks ‘The United Kingdom Government's perceptions of the European Convention on Human Rights at the time of entry’ [2000] PL 438 at 448.

111 Marston, above n 108, at 813.

112 Ibid, at 813 and 815; and Wicks, above n 110, at 446.

113 Marston, above n 108, at 816.

114 Wicks, above n 110, at 444.

115 Ibid, at 447–449.

116 Marston, above n 108, at 814.

117 Ibid, at 816.

118 Wicks, above n 110, at 445.

119 Ibid, at 449.

120 Hanafin, P Constituting Identity: Political Identity Formation and the Constitution in Post-independence Ireland (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001) pp 1–2, 6–8, 10, 99–100 and 104–105.

121 Paxman, J Empire: What Ruling the World did to the British (London: Viking, 2011) pp 238240.

122 Powell, D Nationhood and Identity: The British State since 1800 (London: IB Tauris, 2002) pp 145, 149 and 151.

123 Laws, above n 2, pp 6–9 and 30.

124 Ministry of Justice, above n 1, p 9 and para 2.2.

125 Ibid, para 2.16.

126 Ibid, paras 2.15, 2.17 and 2.20.

127 The Conservative Party, above n 1.

128 Ibid, pp 4 and 5.

129 Green, DRefinement, not redefinition: what should be in the British bill of rights?’ in Shorthouse, R and Dobson, J (eds) Conservatism and Human Rights (London: Bright Blue 2016) pp 46 and 44–45; Joint Committee on the Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill Session 2013–14, HL 103/HC 924, 18 December 2013 (HMSO, 2013) paras 114–123; and Ministry of Defence Single Departmental Plan: 2015–2020, 19 December 2016 (MOD 2016) section 1.2, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mod-single-departmental-plan-2015-to-2020/single-departmental-plan-2015-to-2020 (accessed 1 June 2018).

130 Laws, above n 2, pp 82–83.

131 Lord Chancellor, Hansard HL Deb, vol 582, col 1228, 3 November 1997; and F Klug ‘The Human Rights Act 1998, Pepper v. Hart and all that’ [1999] PL 246 at 247; and Boateng, P and Straw, JBringing rights home: Labour's plans to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law’ [1997] 1 EHRLR 71 at 80.

132 Laws, above n 2, pp 7, 9, 22, 24–25, 30 and 57.

133 Ibid, pp 6–9.

134 [1993] AC 789.

135 [2001] Fam 147.

136 Suicide Act 1961, s 1; and Nicklinson, above n 9, at [90], cf [212] where Lord Sumption argued that decriminalisation did not reflect a change in morality from duty to the maximisation of autonomy, but was done because it was felt that criminalising it was ‘inhuman and ineffective’.

137 R (Pretty) v DPP [2001] UKHL 61; Purdy, above n 8; Nicklinson, above n 9.

138 Bland, above n 134, at 825; approved Nicklinson, above n 9, at [199] (Lord Wilson).

139 Bland, above n 134, at 825.

140 Ibid, at 827.

141 Ibid, at 833.

142 Ibid, at 827 and 829–830.

143 Ibid, at 803.

144 Ibid, at 859.

145 Re A, above n 135, at 155; and Pattinson, S Medical Law and Ethics (London: Sweet and Maxwell, 4th edn, 2014) p 529.

146 Re A, above n 135, at 155.

147 Ibid, at 239.

148 Ibid, at 186–188 (Ward LJ), 211–212 (Brooke LJ) and 258 (Walker LJ).

149 Pattinson, above n 145.

150 Re A, above n 135, at 196 (emphasis added).

151 Ibid, at 239 (emphasis added).

152 Ibid, at 239.

153 Ibid, at 240.

154 Ibid, at 255 (emphasis added).

155 Ibid, at 258 (emphasis added).

156 Ibid, at 259.

157 Ibid, at 187–188, 196 (Ward LJ), 214 (Brooke LJ) and 243 (Walker LJ).

158 Above n 137.

159 Ibid, at [109] (Lord Hobhouse); see also [5] (Lord Bingham), [59] (Lord Steyn) and [87] (Lord Hope).

160 Ibid, at [109].

161 Ibid, at [54].

162 Ibid, at [110]–[111].

163 Ibid, at [23] (Lord Bingham), [61] (Lord Steyn) and [100] (Lord Hope).

164 Ibid, at [23] and [61].

165 Ibid, at [18].

166 Ibid, at [100].

167 Pretty, above n 3, at [39].

168 Above text to n 24; and ibid, at [65].

169 Pretty, above n 3, at [61].

170 Ibid, at [62].

171 Ibid, at [62] and [67].

172 Ibid, at [65].

173 Purdy, above n 8, at [53]–[54] and [56].

174 Ibid, at [32], [38], [60], [61], [71] and [82].

175 Ibid, at [38], citing Pretty, above n 3, [65].

176 Nicklinson, above n 9.

177 Ibid, at [95]; see also [96]–[98].

178 Ibid, at [208].

179 Ibid, at [208].

180 Ibid, at [263]; cf Countryside Alliance, above n 60, at [10]–[15] and [138]–[139].

181 Nicklinson, above n 9, at [160].

182 Ibid, at [171] (Lord Mance), [228]–[229] (Lord Sumption) and [311] (Lady Hale).

183 Ibid, at [199] (Lord Wilson) and [209] (Lord Mance).

184 Ibid, at [113] (Lord Neuberger), [188] (Lord Mance), [201] (Lord Wilson), [234] (Lord Sumption), [267] (Lord Hughes), [290] (Lord Clarke) and [297]–[298] (Lord Reed).

185 Re JR38 [2015] UKSC 42.

186 [2004] EWHC 1879 (Admin); and [2005] EWCA Civ 1003.

187 Re JR38, above n 185, at [86]–[88].

188 Ibid, at [100].

189 Ibid, at [97]–[98].

190 Ibid, at [99]–[100].

191 Ibid, at [37], quoting PG v UK (2001) 46 EHRR 1272 at [56].

192 Re JR38, above n 185, at [38], [41] and [54], [56]–[57] and [64].

193 Ibid, at [36].

194 Ibid, at [50], [53] and [55].

195 Ibid, at [63] and [78]–[80].

196 Ibid, at [105] and [110].

197 Ibid, at [110].

198 Ibid, at [113]–[115].

199 Pattinson, SContemporaneous and advance requests: the fight for rights at the end of life’ in Herring, J and Wall, J Landmark Cases in Medical Law (Oxford: Hart, 2015) pp 255269.

200 A case in which he was council for the Official Solicitor acting as guardian ad litem.

201 Burke, High Court, above n 186, at [130], [166] and [178].

202 Ibid, at esp [73]–[75] and [166] and Pattinson, above n 199, p 259.

203 Burke, High Court, above n 186, at [80].

204 Ibid.

205 Burke, Court of Appeal, above n 186, at [39]–[40]; and Pattinson, above n 199, pp 258 and 260.

206 Pattinson, above n 199, p 260.

207 For example Re G (Children) [2012] EWCA Civ 1233 at [60], [80] and [82] (Munby LJ giving judgment for the court); A v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2004] UKHL 56 at [81] (Lord Nicholls), cf [191] (Lord Walker); and Ghaidan v Mendoza [2004] UKHL 30 at [17] (Lord Nicholls) and [132] (Lady Hale).

208 Above n 131.

I am extremely grateful for the help and advice of Chris Castell, Emma Cave, Aoife O'Donoghue, Murat Erdoğan, Jack Hepworth, William Lucy, Roger Masterman, Matthew Nicholson, Shaun Pattinson, Rachel Scarfe and Marion Tait who read drafts of this paper; to Amanda Taylor Aiken whose conversation started the train of thought that led to this article; and to the anonymous reviewers for their comments and encouragement. Any errors are my own.

Keywords

Too attentive to our duty: the fundamental conflict underlying human rights protection in the UK

  • Benedict Douglas (a1)

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