Dominic Raab denies assault on Human Rights Act is ‘racist’ and risks fresh Brexit clash

Exclusive: Deputy prime minister accuses critics of lacking ’common sense’ and inflating risk of clash

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 22 June 2022 11:32 BST
Raab says it is not right for ECHR to intervene in Rwanda flights

Dominic Raab has hit back at criticism that replacing the Human Rights Act is “racist” and sets up a fresh Brexit clash, as he publishes the controversial legislation.

A new Bill of Rights is under fire for ripping up vital protections while putting the UK on a collision course with Brussels – by neutering the influence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

But the deputy prime minister told The Independent his critics were ignoring “common sense” and of exaggerating the risk of a clash with the Strasbourg Court.

Campaigners have warned that injustices such as the Hillsborough disaster and the failure to investigate ‘black cab rapist’ John Worboys would have never been exposed if the shake-up was already in place.

And they said plans for past “conduct of claimants” to be taken into account when cases are brought for rights violations will hit ethnic minority groups disproportionately.

But Mr Raab dismissed those fears, insisting there would be no impact on anyone just because they have been put on a police database, or been stopped and searched.

“The common law already reflects the principle that a claimant who seeks compensation must come with clean hands, so why shouldn’t we do that with human rights claims? For most people, that’s just common sense,” Mr Raab said.

He also rejected the warning, by a Cambridge University professor of EU law, that ignoring ECHR rulings risks retaliation from the EU – for breaching the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Mr Raab said: “Our record of compliance with Strasbourg rulings compared to other major EU countries is very strong, so it is not a very balanced criticism, if I can put that gently.”

The deputy prime minister – and justice secretary – is also under fire for failing to allow proper parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill of Rights, against the recommendation of Commons committees.

Around 150 organisations, led by the campaign group Liberty, fear dramatic changes will be rammed though without “robust consideration” of the shake-up.

Publishing the Bill, Mr Raab will confirm the UK will stay in the European Convention of Human Rights – after No 10 hinted it might pull out, amid the Rwanda deportations controversy.

But the shake-up will prevent a repeat of the ECHR using an interim injunction to block flights, by making clear ‘rule 39’ moves are not binding on UK courts.

It will make it easier to deport foreign offenders and asylum seekers, by stripping out the defence of a right to a family life in the UK for anyone convicted of an “imprisonable” offence.

The crackdown will also block attempts to enforce human rights even before they reach a courtroom, by requiring early proof of suffering “a significant disadvantage”.

It will make the UK Supreme Court “the ultimate judicial decision-maker” on human rights issues, removing the need to follow ECHR case law.

Mr Raab will also argue he is boosting media freedom by introducing a stronger test for courts to consider before ordering journalists to disclose their sources.

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