Human Rights Act 1998 - the twelve freedoms

Article reference: UK-IA-EMP07
Last updated: December 2020 | 3 min read

This Act came into force on 2nd October 2000, and brings into UK law rights and freedoms set out at an earlier date in the European Convention on Human Rights.

The twelve freedoms are:

  1. No-one shall be deprived of his life intentionally, except following his conviction of a crime for which the penalty of death is provided by law.

  2. No-one shall be subjected to torture, or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

  3. No-one shall be held in slavery or servitude, or required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

  4. No-one shall be deprived of his liberty, except under the specified legal provisions.

  5. In determination of his civil rights and obligations, or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing, within a reasonable time, by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.

  6. No-one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence for an action which was not a criminal offence at the time it was committed.

  7. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home, and his correspondence.

  8. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right includes freedom to change his religion, and not be discriminated against in the workplace on grounds on religion.

  9. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority, and regardless of frontiers.

  10. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

  11. Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family.

  12. The enjoyment of these rights and freedoms shall be secured without discrimination on any grounds, such as sexual orientation, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, or any other.

All countries that have signed up to the Convention are obliged to secure the above rights for all their citizens. All national courts and tribunals must take into account the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

Many of the articles provide exceptions where the national laws of a country require a restriction in the interests of national security, public safety, or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of crime or disorder, protection of health or morals, or to protect the freedom and rights of others. An example is that citizens can be monitored under the Telecommunications (Interception of Communications) Regulations.

In practice, the most widely used objections to an assertion of a right are first the national interest, and second that the maintenance of a right necessarily imposes a loss of the same or different right to which one or more others are entitled.

In the years since the Act came into effect in the UK , the courts, both in the UK and in Europe , have taken a robust view of claims. Despite some well publicised successes, it is probably fair to say that the legal chaos envisaged by critics of the Act has not materialised.

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