Human rights and the trivial…..

The Conservative plan for a ‘Bill of Rights’ has been made public by David Allen Green (@JackofKent) here.

I’m sure there will be detailed analyses of it by people far more expert than me – but there was one particular thing in the proposals that drew my attention. The idea is to:

Limit the use of Human Rights laws to the most serious cases. They will no longer apply in trivial cases.

So what counts as trivial? Who decides what is trivial? This may seem like a trivial question, but it really isn’t, particularly when you consider the nature of human rights. What is trivial to one person is far from trivial to another – so who it is who makes that judgment, and on what basis, is critical. As someone who works primarily in the field of privacy, this is an issue that comes up all the time. Those who invade privacy often consider those invasions trivial – and don’t understand why other people complain about this. The ‘nothing to hide’ argument often hinges on this – only ‘bad’ people are bothered by privacy invasion, because the impact on other people is ‘trivial’.

Another example has come up in the last few weeks, with the conviction of Dave Lee Travis for indecent assault. There were a number of articles in newspapers (such as this one by Rosie Millard) suggesting that what he did was, effectively, trivial. The woman whose breasts he squeezed was, effectively, accused of making a mountain out a molehill in complaining. By most accounts it wasn’t trivial for her – she certainly didn’t think so. Whose view takes precedence? Who decides when things are trivial?

It’s not a trivial question. It matters – and if the upshot of the Conservative Bill of Rights is that decisions like this are made by the government, the ‘little people’ – the people that human rights are particularly needed to protect – are likely to be given short shrift. That isn’t a trivial matter.

6 thoughts on “Human rights and the trivial…..

  1. Well it’s poodle politics played out between Grieve, Grayling and Hunt with Cameron holding the ring.
    I find it extraordinary the way an attorney general’s opinion can be ignored.
    Grieve thought his role was to be independent, that is a hopeful sign.
    But if government call the shots (what is trivial) we can see things are in a bad way.
    We are lurching inexorably to the right – meanwhile in a state of pathological denial as to what is important.
    In this process the institution of the law will find itself, already finds itself, under attack.
    But a distinction must be made between withdrawal of state funding in legal aid and an erosion of the separation of legislature and judiciary. Athough related, the latter is the more worrying.

  2. I’ve compiled a few recent Human Rights Act cases – they include a man put on a “Top Ten Wanted” list by police for alleged rape he did not commit and two care cases of parents fighting to keep their children – not the sort of stuff that gets publicity but just the sort of “trivial” issues the Conservatives would insist on judges “striking down”. Essentially abolition of the HRA is a means of denying people access to remedies against the state.

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