Good example of the human rights act of 1998: the role of domestic courts essay

Before discussing the implications of the domestic courts on the Human Rights Act of 1998, it is important to first understand the implications, applications, and limitations of the Act itself. The Human Rights Act of 1998 itself was designed to give more power to the United Kingdom’s domestic courts in terms of human rights, and protecting the people under the Crown’s rule in regards to human rights violations (Feldman 2011). Because the United Kingdom is well-connected with the rest of Europe, it is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, but still maintains a great deal of autonomy; the Human Rights Act of 1998 was designed to allow the United Kingdom to handle questions of human rights abuses and fundamental freedoms without escalating the case to an international court of human rights (Feldman 2011).
The purpose of the Human Rights Act of 1998 was, essentially, to domesticize the issue of human rights abuses. The United Kingdom always had– and still has– the option of escalating human rights abuse cases to the highest levels of the European Court of Human Rights– but having the structure in place that allows the United Kingdom itself to handle any cases makes the process much more streamlined (Feldman 2011). Feldman (2011) writes, “ The Human Rights Bill sought to balance parliamentary sovereignty and effective protection of rights, relying on both legal and political remedies for victims of violations. Whilst the potentially major constitutional and legal effects of the bill, which made it highly controversial from the start in the press, were partly hidden by highly-technical drafting, members of both Houses were fully aware of the scale of the bill’s implications” (Feldman 2011). There are practical reasons to want to ensure that human rights cases remain domestic; for one, whenever international courts become involved with anything, there are often legal complications. Allowing domestic courts to control and oversee the process streamlines the whole process for legal professionals (Feldman 2011).
The Human Rights Act of 1998 itself contains some interesting legal diction that creates an obligation for courts in the United Kingdom. This obligation is one that forces these courts to take cases away from the European Court of Human Rights, and to try them in the domestic system (Power 2002). However, the court system is not the only system that is taxed by this particular Act; it places an obligation on all public officials and authorities, forcing them to act in a way that is complicit with the Convention on Human Rights (Power 2002).
There are other implications for the courts as well. Because the courts handle all kinds of issues insofar as violations of the Human Rights Act of 1998 are concerned, the courts have had to become experts in understanding and handling specialized questions that they may have sent out before the Act was instituted. Power (2002) writes, “ This law enables individuals who feel that their rights, as outlined in the Act, have been infringed or abused to seek redress in the British courts. The Act has particular implications for public bodies such as the National Health Service and children’s nurses, as agents of the NHS, need to be aware of the potential implications of the Act for their practice and the provision of child health services” (Power 2002). Many people consider only the implication for the British legal system, but there are real, statewide implications that must be considered in addition to the legal strain. Courts must pay attention to the medical system in order to protect the freedom of individuals under the Human Rights Act of 1998 as well as the European Convention of Human Rights (Power 2002).
The Human Rights Act of 1998 forces domestic courts in the United Kingdom to pay attention to a number of enumerated rights; some claim that this is asking far too much of domestic courts. For instance, the Act claims that all officials must act in accordance with the European Commission on Human Rights unless the government of the United Kingdom specifically passes laws forbidding these actions; Feldman (2011) notes that this places domestic courts in an interesting predicament. Essentially, these courts must make policy decisions for officials without the consensus that is necessary for normal policy decisions (Feldman 2011).
Courts in the United Kingdom must act in a capacity that both interprets the Human Rights Act of 1998 and the European Commission on Human Rights. These acts are designed to protect the individual and his or her personal freedoms; the Human Rights Act of 1998 places the decisions that are to be made regarding these issues directly in the hands of judges. Some say that this has politicized judges in the United Kingdom; others claim that it is too much power and pressure to put on the domestic legal system. However, it has been extremely effective in removing the burden of an international trial insofar as human rights abuses in the United Kingdom are concerned.


Feldman, D. (2011). Extending the Role of the Courts: The Human Rights Act 1998. Parliamentary History, 30(1), pp. 65-84.
Legislation. gov. uk, (2014). Human Rights Act 1998. [online] Available at: http://www. legislation. gov. uk/ukpga/1998/42/contents [Accessed 10 Dec. 2014].
Power, K. (2002). Implications of the Human Rights Act 1998. Paediatric Care, 14(4), pp. 14-19.