‘Racist’ overhaul of Human Rights Act to strip protections from people targeted by stop and search

Exclusive: Dominic Raab accused over curbs that will hit ethnic minorities in ‘two-tier assault on our rights’

Dominic Raab attacks 'nonsense' of Human Rights Act

The overhaul of the Human Rights Act has been branded “racist” over a plan to strip protections from people who have been targeted by stop and search and immigration laws.

The alarm is being raised over Dominic Raab’s plan for past “conduct” to be taken into account when claims are brought for rights violations, with a warning it will disproportionately hit ethnic minority groups.

These groups are far more likely to be stopped by the police or questioned over their immigration status, and therefore arrested, fined or detained, the campaign group Liberty said.

Most of the names kept on the Gangs Violence Matrix, a Metropolitan Police database, are those of young black men.

Now Liberty is demanding a rethink as ministers prepare to plough ahead with watering down the landmark 1998 Act through a Bill in next month’s Queen’s Speech.

“Migrants, prisoners and people with historic ‘poor conduct’ won’t get the same rights as those with citizenship, or without a criminal record, which will have racist impacts”, Martha Spurrier, the organisation’s director, told The Independent.

“It will put over-policed communities at risk of losing their rights – even though these are the groups most likely to face a human rights violation by the state.”

The warning comes as Liberty warns the shake-up is far more draconian than expected, something obscured in recent months by public focus on Covid, Partygate and the Ukraine war.

Injustices such as the Hillsborough tragedy and the failure to investigate ‘black cab rapist’ John Worboys may have never been exposed if the curbs were already in place, it fears.

The crackdown will also block attempts to enforce human rights even before they reach a courtroom, despite “terrible abuses” being revealed only once a legal case starts.

Mr Raab has claimed his plans will protect free speech from “wokery and political correctness” – but campaigners believe that is a smokescreen masking “a full-on assault” on human rights, through:

* Curbs on ‘positive obligations’, requiring the state to take proactive steps to protect rights – the mechanism that delivered justice in the Hillsborough and Worboys cases.

* A ‘permission stage’ – that would shut down claims at the start without proof of “significant disadvantage”.

* The plan to take into account ‘the conduct of claimants’ – even actions many years in the past, with no link to alleged mistreatment by a public authority.

Ms Spurrier added: “The Conservative Party said it would “update” the Human Rights Act, but the proposals brought forward go far beyond an update and are much worse than we feared.

“They constitute nothing less than a full-on assault on our rights – creating a two-tier system where only some people are deserving of rights and making it much harder for people who have had their rights breached to get justice.”

The criticisms come after Amnesty International accused ministers of the danger of “aligning themselves with authoritarian regimes around the world” by watering down the Human Rights Act.

The Law Society has warned of the damage to “the UK’s reputation as a committed member of the international community of rights-respecting nations”.

Fears were raised from the moment Mr Raab – who was recorded, in 2009, saying: “I don’t support the Human Rights Act” – was handed the justice brief in his cabinet demotion last September.

A few weeks later, he was attacked for misrepresenting the case of “a drug dealer convicted of beating his ex-partner” to claim the Act was being abused.

Mr Raab argues that creating a British Bill of Rights will wrestle back “parliament’s role as the ultimate decision-maker” from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

It will be easier to deport asylum seekers claiming the right to a family life to stay in the UK – but a threat to withdraw from the ECHR altogether has been dropped.

The Ministry of Justice declined to respond to the criticisms, but argued the overhaul will “strengthen essential rights, particularly freedom of expression, while preventing abuses and giving judges the flexibility and powers they need”.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in