The Human Rights Act 1998 (c42) is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom which received Royal Assent on 9 November 1998, and mostly came into force on 2 October 2000.1 Its aim was to incorporate into UK law the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Act makes a remedy for breach of a Convention right available in UK courts, without the need to go to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg.
In particular, the Act makes it unlawful for any public body to act in a way which is incompatible with the Convention, unless the wording of any other primary legislation provides no other choice. It also requires the judiciary (including tribunals) to take account of any decisions, judgment or opinion of the European Court of Human Rights, and to interpret legislation, as far as possible, in a way which is compatible with Convention rights.2 However, if it is not possible to interpret an Act of Parliament so as to make it compatible with the Convention, the judges are not allowed to override it. All they can do is issue a declaration of incompatibility. This declaration does not affect the validity of the Act of Parliament: in that way, the Human Rights Act seeks to maintain the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty (see: Constitution of the United Kingdom). However, judges may strike down secondary legislation. Under the Act, individuals retain the right to sue in the Strasbourg court.