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HUMAN RIGHTS ACT BRINGS RIGHTS HOME TO SCOTLAND

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Today marks another important step forward in bringing human rights closer to the people, with home secretary Jack ...
Today marks another important step forward in bringing human rights closer to the people, with home secretary Jack Straw signing the order giving the green light for the Human Rights Act to come into force across the UK on 2 October this year.

ECHR in Scotland already applies to the Crown Office and to the Scottish parliament. This Act will extend human rights to all public bodies in Scotland such as the NHS, schools and local authorities so that infringements there can be raised directly in Scottish courts.

Deputy minister for justice Angus MacKay said: 'The Labour/Liberal Democrat government partnership believe that we have a responsibility to ensure that we back up our ideals with solid practical commitment. We must protect human rights and be prepared to pass new laws to safeguard them. We can and must do so in ways which protect the individual and the community.

'That means, for example, guaranteeing the right to a fair trial. Because if found guilty, criminals should not have the loophole of non-compliance with human rights as a way of appealing against conviction.

'That is one reason why the partnership government brought forward the Bail and Judicial Appointments Bill which the parliament passed last week. However human rights is about very much more. It is about basic issues we often take for granted.

'The guarantee offered by the Human Rights Act will ensure that every public organisation we deal with in our daily lives like the NHS, schools and councils, operate to the same basic standard of fairness. If they do not and we feel our rights have not been respected we will be able to do something about it. We will have a remedy in Scotland and a means to enforce our rights.

'Human rights are relevant rights for everyone in Scotland today. The Scotland we all want to live in is a country that respects our basic rights as individuals and families. This involves being treated with respect by our public bodies: we pay for them and have the right to expect that they work for the benefit of us all.

'This is not an abstract ideal, it is a practical framework that the partnership is committed to uphold and part of providing a system of modern government that works for Scotland and Scottish people.'

BACKGROUND

1. Successive UK governments have been committed to upholding human rights after this country signed the European Convention on Human Rights in 1951. This convention provides a minimum guarantee of the fundamental rights and freedoms that can be expected from a democratic country.

2. The ECHR contains 17 basic rights including:

freedom from torture and killing;

liberty;

respect for home and family life;

education;

right to a fair trial;

right of expression;

right to vote; and

property

3. Out of over 600 cases brought under the convention since last year, around 16 have been successful.

4. Last week the Scottish Parliament passed the Bail, Judicial Appointments Etc (Scotland) Bill which provides for the creation of newpart-time sheriffs to replace temporary sheriffs which were ruled to be in breach of ECHR in Starr v Chalmers.

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