We’ve signed the British Institute of Human Rights Letter to Government

The 10th December 2022 is Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration is the foundation of the Human Rights Act (1998) which protects the rights of all UK citizens, ensuring we are all treated fairly and equally, with dignity and respect. The Act also sets out the responsibilities of those in power to ensure human rights are upheld.

To support and mark this event, Communicourt has signed a letter penned by the British Institute of Human Rights and signed by 156 other organisations. This letter calls on the UK Government to support the Human Rights Act (1998) and raises concerns about plans to replace the Act with a new “Bill of Rights”.

The British Institute of Human Rights is concerned that replacing the Human Rights Act (1998) will erode human rights in the UK. This is particularly concerning given the current cost of living crisis, which is forcing more and more people into instability, deprivation and positions of potential vulnerability.  

We support the British Institute of Human Right’s message that “that human rights are never relative and must always be upheld as what unites all of humanity” and that the Government must uphold the Human Rights Act (1998).

Supporting Human Rights at Communicourt

Each of the 16 articles of the Human Rights Act (1998) apply to all of our services users. However, Article 6 (The Right to a Fair Trial) and Article 14 (The Right to Non-Discrimination) are particularly intertwined with the work we do as intermediaries.

Article 6: The Right to a Fair Trial

As intermediaries, we work to ensure that Communicourt’s service users can participate fully in their trial or hearing. Although the Article doesn’t directly reference the use of intermediaries, Part 3 is especially relevant to our role. Among other rules, it stipulates that every person has the right to:

  • Be informed promptly, in a language which they understand and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against them.

  • Have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defence.

  • Have the free assistance of an interpreter if they cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

For some people facing trial, the use of an intermediary is essential to protecting the above rights. In fact, M (A Child) (2012): Court of Appeal found a breach of the right to a fair trial after the respondent Father in the case was not given the support of an intermediary.

An intermediary can explore a defendant’s unique communication profile, make recommendations to ensure their understanding of the case against them and implement bespoke measures to assist them to:

  • Prepare their defence (if the intermediary is allocated to attend conferences prior to trial, they can support the individual to express their views and accounts to their legal representative, understand legal advice and give clear instructions).

  • Understand the accusation against them (e.g. by simplifying language, using visual aids to explain complex concepts and implementing other strategies to support the individual’s specific communication needs to improve their participation).

  • Provide information about the case “in a language they understand” (e.g. by simplifying legal terminology or creating easy read documents about the case).

Article 14: The Right to Non-Discrimination

This right can be described as a ‘piggy-back’ or conjunctive right. This means that it operates in conjunction with other rights, rather than serving as a right in isolation.

Discrimination means that you are treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation, because of a characteristic you have. For example, an individual with a learning disability should not have their Right to a Fair Trial adversely impacted because they have greater difficulty following and understanding proceedings. Instead, their Right to Non-Discrimination should be protected by the implementation of measures to ensure they are supported to participate effectively in legal proceedings.

We support the Human Rights Act (1998)

We stand with the British Institute of Human Rights in calling on Government to retain the Human Rights Act (1998). To learn more about the proposed replacement Bill of Rights and why this shift is cause for concern, read more online and follow @BHIR on Twitter.  

Further reading