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LABOUR branded the Tories new Bill of Rights a “con” today, warning that the reforms will affect everyone “who relies on the state to protect them from harm.”
Introducing the proposed legislation to Parliament, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab described plans to override the European Court of Human Rights as “principled and pragmatic.”
He told MPs: “Our Bills of Rights will strengthen our proud tradition of freedom, it will demarcate a clearer separation of powers,” and “ultimately it will make us freer, it will help keep our streets safer.”
But shadow justice secretary Ellie Reeves said the “Bill of Rights con” would constitute an attack on “victims of crime the state has failed to protect and women.
“Women have used the Human Rights Act to challenge the police when they have either failed or refused to investigate rape and sexual assault cases,” she told MPs.
“It should come as no surprise that this Bill has been put forward by a Conservative government that has effectively decriminalised rape.”
Mr Raab’s Bill of Rights would replace the Human Rights Act and reduce the influence of the ECHR.
The proposals come a week after an intervention by the Strasbourg-based court forced the government to abandon its first deportation flight to Rwanda.
The legislation also seeks to make it easier to deport people with criminal convictions, make it harder to bring a human rights claim to court and remove obligations on public authorities to actively protect people’s human rights.
The proposals have been widely criticised, including by women’s rights groups, who warn that the abolition of the Human Rights Act will “threaten women’s ability to challenge the state’s failures to protect them.”
End Violence Against Women Coalition director Andrew Simon said: “There is no reasonable justification for seeking to curb obligations on public authorities to protect people’s human rights; this move simply seeks to absolve the state of responsibility in this area and will drastically impact victims and survivors of abuse.”
The Law Society said the Bill of Rights will create “an acceptable class of human rights abuses in the UK” by way of “introducing a bar on claims deemed not to cause ‘significant disadvantage.’
“It is a lurch backwards for British justice,” Law Society of England and Wales president Stephanie Boyce said.
“Authorities may begin to consider some rights violations as acceptable, because these could no longer be challenged under the Bill of Rights despite being against the law.
“Overall, the Bill would grant the state greater unfettered power over the people, power which would then belong to all future governments, whatever their ideologies.”
Critics have also accused Mr Raab of trying to rush through the legislation without proper scrutiny.
On Tuesday, over 150 organisations wrote to the Justice Secretary urging him to provide pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposals.
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