A new Magna Carta? - Political and Constitutional Reform Contents



36  The Bill of Rights[838]

(1)  Right to Life. -- (a) Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law.

(b)  No one shall be deprived of life intentionally.

(c)  Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary -

(i)  in defence of any person from unlawful violence; or

(ii)  in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.

(d)  No one shall be condemned to death or executed.

(2)  Freedom from Torture. -- No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

(3)  Freedom from Slavery and Forced Labour. -- (a) No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

(b)  No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

(c)  For the purpose of this Article, the expression 'forced or compulsory labour' does not include -

(i)   any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention according to Article 5 or during conditional release from such detention;

(ii)  any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious objectors, service exacted instead of compulsory military service;

(iii)  any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity threatening the life or well being of the community;

(iv)  any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.

(4)  Freedom and Security of the Person. -- (a) Everyone has the right to liberty and security of the person.

(b)  No one shall be deprived of their liberty except, on reasonable grounds and in accordance with fair procedures established by law, in the following cases -

(i)  the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court;

(ii)  the lawful arrest or detention of a person for non-compliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to secure the fulfilment of any obligation prescribed by law;

(iii)  the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing them before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent their committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;

(iv)  the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases constituting a serious threat to public health, or of persons suffering from mental disorder where necessary for the prevention of harm to themselves or others;

(v)  the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent their effecting an unauthorised entry into the United Kingdom or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition.

(c)  Anyone who is arrested shall, at the time of arrest, be informed in a language which they understand of the reasons for their arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against them.

(d)  It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody.

(e)  Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and is entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial or at any other stage of the judicial proceedings.

(f)   Anyone who is deprived of liberty by arrest or detention is entitled to take proceedings before a court in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of the detention and may order their release if the detention is not lawful.

(g)  Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention has an enforceable right to compensation.

(h)  All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

(i)  Accused persons in detention shall, save in exceptional circumstances, be segregated from convicted persons and shall be subject to separate treatment appropriate to their status as people who have not been convicted.

(j)  Accused juvenile persons in detention shall be separated from adults and brought as speedily as possible for adjudication.

(k)  Juvenile convicted persons shall be separated from adults and accorded treatment appropriate to their age and legal status.

(l)   No one shall be imprisoned merely on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation.

(5)  Right to Fair and Public Hearing. -- (a) In the determination of their civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charges against them, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.

(b)  Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or any part of the trial to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court:

(i)  in the interests of public order or national security in a democratic society;

(ii)  where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require; or

(iii)  where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.

(c)   Everyone charged with a criminal offence is presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

(d)   Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:

  (i)  to be informed promptly in a language which they understand and in detail of the nature and cause of the accusation against them;

(ii)  to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of their defence;

(iii)  to defend themselves in person or through legal assistance of their own choosing or. if they have not sufficient means ) to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;

(iv)  to examine or have examined witnesses against them and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on their behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against them;

(v)  to have the free assistance of an interpreter if they cannot understand or speak the language used in court;

(vi)  not to be compelled to testify against themselves or to confess guilt.

(e)   When a person has, by a final decision, been convicted of a criminal offence and has suffered punishment as a result of such conviction, and it is subsequently shown that there has been a miscarriage of justice, that person shall be compensated according to law.

(f)  Everyone convicted of a crime has the right to have their conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.

(g)   No one is liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which they have already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure.

(6)  Retrospective Offences Prohibited. -- (a) No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed.

(b)  Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.

(c)   This Article does not prejudice the trial and punishment of any person for any act which constitutes the crime of genocide or a crime against humanity.

(7)  Respect for Private and Family Life. -- (a) Everyone has the right to respect for their private and family life, their home and their correspondence.

(b)  There shall be no interference with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society -

(i)  in the interests of national security or public safety; or

(ii)  for the prevention of disorder or crime; or

(iii)  for the protection of health or morals; or .4 for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

(8)  Freedom of Thought. -- (a) Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

(b)  This right includes freedom to change one's religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest one's religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

(c)  Freedom to manifest one's religion or belief is subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society -

(i)  in the interests of public safety; or

(ii)  for the preservation of public order; or

(iii)  for the protection of health or morals; or

(iv)  for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

(d)   No law shall be made establishing any religion or imposing any religious observance.

(e)  No religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office of public trust under any government in the United Kingdom.

(9)  Right to Education. -- (a) No person shall be denied the right to education.

(b)  In the exercise of their functions in relation to education and teaching, public authorities shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions, so far as is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure.

(10)  Freedom of Expression. -- (a) Everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference.

(b)  Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of their choice.

(c)  The exercise of this right carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but only such as are provided by law and are necessary in a democratic society -

(i)  for respect of the rights or reputations of others; or

(ii)  for the protection of national security or of public order or of public health or morals.

(d)  A requirement by law that radio or television broadcasting, or cinema enterprises, must be licensed is not inconsistent with this Article.

(11)  Freedom of Assembly and Association. -- (a) 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.

(b)  No restriction shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society -

(i)  in the interests of national security, public safety or the preservation of public order; or


(ii)  for the protection of public health or morals; or

(iii)  for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

(c)   This Article does not prevent the imposition of restrictions prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society on the exercise of this right by members of the Armed Forces or of the police or by persons charged with the administration of the state.

(12)  Rights in Respect of Marriage. -- (a) Everyone of marriageable age has the right both to marry and to found a family.

(b)  No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(c)  Spouses have equality of rights and responsibilities as to marriage, during marriage, and at its dissolution.

(d)  In the case of dissolution, provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children.

(e)  Every child has the right to such measures of protection as are required by their status as a minor, on the part of their family, society and public authorities.

(13)  Right to Enjoyment of Possession. -- (a) Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions.

(b)  No one shall be deprived of their possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and to prompt, adequate and effective compensation.

(c)  This Article does not in any way impair the right to enforce such laws as may be necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.

(14)  Right to Participate in Public Life and Service. -- Every adult citizen has the right and the opportunity, without unreasonable restrictions -

(a)  to take part in the conduct of public affairs directly or through freely chosen representatives;

(b)  to vote and to stand for election at genuine periodic elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the people;

(c)  to participate, on general terms of equality, in public service.

(15)  Freedom of Movement. -- (a) Everyone lawfully within the United Kingdom has the right of liberty of movement and freedom to choose their residence within the United Kingdom.

(b)  Everyone is free to leave the United Kingdom, and everyone holding British nationality is entitled to a passport.

(c)  No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the rights set out in this Article other than such as are in accordance with law and are necessary in a democratic society -

(i)  in the interests of national security, public safety or the preservation of public order; or

(ii)  for the prevention of crime or under an order imposed by a court on conviction of crime; or

(iii)  for the protection of health; or

(iv)  for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

(d)  The rights set out in paragraph (a) may also be subject, in particular areas, to restrictions imposed in accordance with law and justified by the public interest in a democratic society.

(16)  Freedom from Expulsion from the United Kingdom. -- (a) No British national shall be expelled from the United Kingdom or deprived of the right to enter the United Kingdom.

(b)  Other persons may be expelled from the United Kingdom only in pursuance of a decision reached in accordance with law.

(c)  Any persons who have been lawfully admitted to the United Kingdom shall be allowed, prior to expulsion,

(i)  to submit reasons against expulsion; and

(ii)  to have their cases reviewed by, and be represented for the purpose before, the competent authority or a person or persons especially designated by the competent authority.

(d)  This Article does not prevent the extradition of persons, through established legal procedures, for the purpose of standing trial for a criminal offence or serving a sentence lawfully imposed on them in another jurisdiction.

(17)   Right of Asylum. -- (a) Every person has the right to seek and be granted asylum in the United Kingdom in accordance with the law of the United Kingdom and international conventions, if they are being pursued for political offences.

(b)  In no case may an alien be deported or returned to a country, regardless of whether or not it is their country of origin, if in that country their right to life or personal freedom is in danger of being violated because of their race, nationality, religion, social status, or political opinions.

(18)  Equality. -- (a) Everyone has the right to recognition as a person before the law.

(b)  All persons are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.

(c)  The equal protection of the law, and the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set out in this Bill of Rights, shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, homosexuality, disability, age, or other status.

Application, Interpretation, and Remedies

(19)  The Bill of Rights applies to any act or omission by or on behalf of any person or body in the performance of any public function, including an omission by Government to take appropriate steps to secure compliance with any provision of the Bill of Rights.

(20)  Where the protection of any right or freedom by the Bill of Rights is subject to any restriction or qualification, that restriction or qualification -

(a)  has no wider effect than is strictly necessary in the circumstances; and

(b)  shall not be applied for any purpose other than that for which it has been prescribed.

(21)  In the interpretation of the Bill of Rights, judicial notice shall be taken of -

(a)  the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights;

(b)  reports and expressions of views by the United Nations Human Rights Committee;

(c)  judgments and advisory opinions of the European Court of Human Rights.

but without prejudice to any rights and freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights which are more extensive than those protected by the International Covenant or the European Convention.

(22)  Nothing in the Bill of Rights shall be interpreted as implying for any group or person a right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set out therein.

(23)  Without prejudice to any right to apply for judicial review, any person whose rights or freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights have been infringed or are threatened with infringement may bring civil proceedings for damages, an injunction or any other relief authorised by Rules of Court

37  Equality and Human Rights Commission

(1)  There shall be a Commission, or office of Commissioner, to uphold and promote the Bill of Rights in England and Wales, in Scotland, and in Northern Ireland, collectively referred to herein as "the Commission".[839]

(2)  An Act of Parliament or a devolved Parliament or Assembly shall make provision for the name, composition, membership, appointment, and resources of the Commission.

(3)  The Commission shall have a general duty to encourage an understanding of, and compliance with, the Bill of Rights, and in pursuance thereof -

(a)  may prepare and publicise guidelines for the avoidance of acts or practices inconsistent with the Bill of Rights by public authorities or other bodies providing services to the public;

(b)  may inquire into or investigate any act or practice which may be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights, whether on its own initiative or following a complaint;

(c)  may intervene in any legal proceedings that involve human rights issues, where it considers it appropriate, and with the leave of the court hearing the proceedings;

(d)  may challenge the validity of any provision of an Act of Parliament or of a devolved Parliament or Assembly that, in its view, is inconsistent with or in contravention of the Bill of Rights, by initiating legal proceedings in the High Court, the Court of Session or the High Court for Northern Ireland, as the case requires;

(e)  shall submit annual reports on its work to Parliament the Minister of Justice and appropriate committee or committees in Parliament with responsibility for human rights.

(4)  The legislation making provision for the Commission shall grant it appropriate powers to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents; and

(5)  Nothing in this Article prevents a Commission or Commissioner being established for the whole of the United Kingdom, or for two of the territories combined of England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland; but where separate bodies are established they shall be under a general duty to co-operate wherever possible and necessary to the performance of their functions.

38  Social and Economic Rights

(1)  In making provision for the social and economic welfare of the people of the United Kingdom, Parliament and the devolved Parliament and Assemblies shall be guided by the following principles -

(a)  the right of workers to earn their living in an occupation freely entered upon;

(b)  the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing;

(c)  the right of everyone to social security;

(d)  the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health;

(d)  the right of everyone to education;

(e)  the right of workers to resort to collective action in the event of a conflict of interests, including the right to strike;

(f)  the right of every worker to enjoy satisfactory health and safety conditions in their working environment.

(2)  Parliament and the Assemblies of Scotland and Northern Ireland shall -

(a)  secure that the working of the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equality of access; and

(b)  in particular, provide by law for legal aid and services to ensure that no one is prevented from securing justice by reason of economic or other disabilities.

(3)  The provisions of this Article are not enforceable in any court.

39  Freedom of Information

(1)  There is right of access by the public to the information held by any public authority performing functions with respect to the government of the United Kingdom, to he government of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to local government.

(2)  This right is subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society -

(a)  for the protection of national security;

(b)  in the interests of law enforcement or the prevention and detection of crime;

(c)  for the protection of personal privacy, legal privilege or commercial processes or transactions;

(d)  to enable a public service to perform its constitutional functions or a public authority, when acting in the capacity of regulator, contractor or employer, to perform its functions.

(3)  An Act of Parliament shall -

(a)  prescribe the procedures to enable the right of access to official information to be readily exercised and enforced; and

(b)  make provision for the appointment, functions, powers and procedures of an Information Commissioner to promote and enforce the right of access to official information and the protection of personal data.

(4)  Any person required by law to provide information to a public authority shall be informed of the purposes for which that information is required, and any information so provided shall be used for those purposes only, unless required on grounds of national security or for the prevention or investigation of serious crime.

838   The rights and freedoms in this Article build on those written for the European Convention on Human Rights (which the UK was largely responsible for drafting in 1950, and was based on what was regarded as the existing situation in the UK) with some elements taken from the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. See IPPR, The Constitution of the United Kingdom, Commentary, pages 2-16. Subsection (1), right to life, takes out the exception of war to prohibition of the death penalty. Subsection (4) removes the exceptions in the ECHR to allow the detention of alcoholics, drug addicts and vagrants short of lawful arrest. "Economic wellbeing of the country" is removed as a ground for violating personal privacy in subsection (7), respect for private and family life. Subsections (10), freedom of expression, and (14), right to participation in public life and service, adopt the more robust articles of the UN International Covenant in preference to those of the ECHR. Subsection (17) adds a right of asylum taken from the American Convention of Human Rights, as there is no specific provision in the ECHR or UN International Covenant; and Subsection (18) provides a general right of equality before the law, wider than that of the ECHR, Protocol 12.  Back

839   The current equivalent bodies are the Equality and Human Rights Commission (for England and Wales), the Scottish Human Rights Commission, and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2014
Prepared 10 July 2014