Human rights court finds mainly in Britain’s favour
Labour & European Law Review Weekly Issue 266 26 April 2012
Research published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission last week has shown that most rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (EctHR) are in Britain’s favour.
Contrary to what the government would have people believe, the vast majority of the nearly 12,000 applications brought against the UK between 1999 and 2010 fell at the first hurdle.
Only three per cent (390 applications) were declared admissible. An even smaller proportion of applications - 1.8 per cent (215) - eventually resulted in a judgment finding a violation. The latest figures for 2011 show a rate of defeat of just 0.5 per cent, or one in 200.
The research also shows that, even then, UK governments and courts have the flexibility to interpret rulings differently to the Court rather than automatically be bound by them.
However, although there have been very few judgements against the UK, a significant proportion that were involved basic civil liberties such as the right to a fair trial, the right to life and the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.
The research also found that other important rulings have led to better protection against unnecessary intrusion into privacy through the use of secret surveillance; legislation outlawing forced labour and servitude; equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people and protecting the freedom of the UK media.
The research was conducted to coincide with a conference held in Brighton last week to finalise the position of the Council of Europe states on reforms to the European Court.
The point of the research was to provide better information to key decision-makers about the impact of the ECtHR and its judgments on the UK.
The conference has now resulted in an agreement - known as the Brighton Declaration - to amend the Convention. This includes tightening the admissibility criteria so that the Court is free to deal with the most serious violations of human rights.
Visit the Equality and Human Rights website to read the ECHR report (PDF, 1.83MB)
Visit the Council of Europe website to read the terms of the Brighton Declaration