Human rights claimants will be able to get instant justice

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The Independent Online

From 2 October, lawyers and their clients will no longer have to travel to Strasbourg when they want to bring a claim for a breach of human rights.

From 2 October, lawyers and their clients will no longer have to travel to Strasbourg when they want to bring a claim for a breach of human rights.

Instead of waiting five years for a decision from the European Court of Human Rights, citizens in England and Wales will be able to get instant justice from their local court. Legal firms have already set up special human-rights units to capitalise on the expected rush.

The Scots have had the Human Rights Act since it came in with devolution in May last year. Apart from successful challenges to the road traffic law, defendants arguing that their trials have been unfair and a ruling against part-time sheriffs, Scotland has had a relatively smooth transition.

But constitutional lawyers say there are dozens of Scottish cases waiting final determination by the Privy Council of the House of Lords. Under the Scotland Act, which also incorporated the European Court of Human Rights in Scotland, all appeals on the convention from the Scottish courts must go the House of Lords. These cases have the potential to create startling precedents.

Courts in England and Wales have been anticipating the changes. Last month, Judge Peter Crawford threw out a case against two men accused of dangerous driving, ruling that the law which compels defendant motorists to name the driver of the vehicle meant the police were inviting the men to incriminate themselves.

And a barrister, Jeremy Rosenblatt, had his parking ticket dropped by Westminster Council after he claimed the fine infringed his human rights.

Tony Blair, Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, and the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, have all trumpeted the arrival of the European Convention on Human Rights to British courts. Labour want it known that this is a considerable achievement and have urged people to make the most of their new rights.