Most senior female judge: Human Rights Act hampered by constitutional problems

25 June 2010 by

Baroness Hale of Richmond has spoken to the Salford Human Rights Conference on the development of human rights law, and has lamented the time spent on constitutional wrangling rather than applying the essence of the Act.

Lady Hale is the only female judge on the UK Supreme Court. The speech can be downloaded here, and makes for interesting reading; many thanks to the UK Supreme Court Blog who have provided a useful summary.

Lord Phillips, the head of the Supreme Court also spoke recently on the Human Rights Act, responded to accusations that it is hampering the fight against terrorism. He said that “respect for human rights is a key weapon in the ideological battle”. Lady Hale suggested that the tension between the Government and the courts arising from such cases is preventing judges from doing their job. She concluded:

There have been some notable individual advances because of the Act. It would be good if we could celebrate these, rather than worry about the underlying constitutional problems of implementation with which I have been concerned today. It seems a shame that an Act, which appeared to be so clearly drafted and was trying to do such an important but radical thing, has given rise to so many difficult constitutional issues on which we have had to spend so much of our time. Maybe the previous mind-set of the practitioners and the courts is more to blame than Parliament and the Parliamentary draftsmen. But these are difficult questions in the constitutional relationship between Parliament and the courts. We have still not heard the last word on most of them. I look forward to finding some solutions in the next ten years of the Human Rights Act.

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