Dominic Raab sparks row with conference pledge to end ‘nonsense’ of Human Rights Act

Justice secetary accused of ‘cynical’ use of single case to justify ‘attack on legislation that protects women’s rights’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 05 October 2021 13:26
Dominic Raab attacks 'nonsense' of Human Rights Act
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Dominic Raab has vowed to end the “nonsense” of the Human Rights Act, claiming the legislation is allowing dangerous criminals to escape justice.

The government will “overhaul” the Act before the next general election, the new justice secretary confirmed – although he stopped short of saying it would be repealed.

To big cheers, Mr Raab attacked “criminals abusing human rights laws”, raising the alleged example of “a drug dealer convicted of beating his ex-partner”.

“A man who hadn’t paid maintenance for his daughter, then successfully claimed the right to family life to avoid deportation,” he told the conference.

“It is absolutely perverse that someone guilty of domestic abuse could claim the right to family life to trump the public’s interest in deporting him from this country.

“We’ve got to bring this nonsense to an end. Before the next election, we will overhaul the Human Rights Act – to end this kind of abuse and restore some common sense to our justice system.”

But Mr Raab was immediately accused of a “cynical” use of an example of violence against women to justify an attack on legislation that protects women’s rights.

Gracie Bradley, the director of the campaign group Liberty, protested: “This is the government using extreme cases to take actions that will undermine the ability of all of us to hold the government to account and ensure our rights are respected.

“We have to remember that the Human Rights Act is a tool that all of us can use. It helped the families of people who died in the Hillsborough disaster to secure justice for their loved ones.”

Ms Bradley added: “It’s really quite cynical of Dominic Raab to be using that example of violence against women, domestic abuse, as justification for overhauling the Human Rights Act, when it has been instrumental in ensuring women’s rights.”

It was also “a time when we’re having a really painful conversation about these abuses of power, including in respect of violence against women”, she said.

Mr Raab, following his demotion from foreign secretary after the Afghanistan debacle, has responsibility for a review of the Human Rights Act.

In the spotlight is the requirement for it to weigh up judgments from the European Court of Human Rights, long a source of Tory anger.

Supporters of the Act fear he will go further than his more liberal predecessor Robert Buckland, who was sacked in Boris Johnson’s reshuffle last month.

Back in 2009, Mr Raab said: “I don’t support the Human Rights Act and I don’t believe in economic and social rights,” a clip unearthed by Labour revealed.

In his speech, the Justice Secretary said making communities safer and allowing women to feel safe walking home at night is his “number one priority”.

He confirmed the expansion of the use of electronic tagging of drunks and drug-users and said prisoners could help plug workforce gaps, a move that would also reduce rates of reoffending.

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