Parliamentary Ombudsman Attempting to Water Down British Bill of Rights

The Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman is lobbying Parliament to water down key provisions in the Bill of Rights currently going through Parliament, according to leaked confidential documents seen by Guido.

One of the key provisions of the new Bill of Rights is aimed at reducing challenges to public authorities on dubious human rights grounds and reducing retrospective court challenges that second guess bodies’ “professional judgement exercised under considerable pressure.” One example the government cites as proof this is needed is the 1998 Osman case:

“[When] a teacher became obsessed with one of his pupils. He shot the boy, injuring him, and killed his father. The family claimed that the police had violated the father’s right to life, by failing to prevent his death.

The claim of negligence against the police failed in the UK courts. The claim was then taken to the Strasbourg Court in 1998. The family’s claim was rejected on the facts of the case, but the court nonetheless held that the right to life placed a general duty on the police to do everything ‘that could be reasonably expected of them to avoid a real and immediate risk to life of which they have or ought to have knowledge’

In the confidential document, the PHSO calls for Clause 5 of the Bill to be amended to maintain Section 6 requirements of the current 1998 Human Rights Act. The current Section 6 places a positive obligation on all public bodies to consider “Human Rights”. “Ensuring public services or private contractors acting on their behalf are proactive in protecting the rights of citizens in their care.”

In July the government published a consultation response on the Bill of Rights, in which they set out the reasoning behind Clause 5 – which the unelected ombudsman now wants to quash – as a key section behind the drive to reduce wasted police time, which deprives the force “of their ability to take their own decisions about where to allocate time and resources.” Retaining a positive obligation on public bodies would largely remove the whole point of replacing the Human Rights Act 1998 in the first place. The government wants to bring an end to the make-work legal gravy train where breaking a finger is a violation of one’s human rights. Bring it on. 

UPDATE: A government source responds to the leak, telling Guido “The courts and ombudsman play a vital role in holding the government to account, but they should not be using the Human Rights Act to shift the goalposts or expand the law. It is the role of elected lawmakers in Parliament to make the law of the land.”

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