To what extent have civil liberties become better protected since 1997 In comparison to countries such as France and the USA, the UK’s commitment to civil liberties was weak. During the US declaration of civil Independence the US made amendments to its constitution,; their bill of rights became largely made up of civil liberties, including the right to freedom of religion, speech etc. And the French Revolution led to the establishment of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789). Whereas, the UK has traditionally been reluctant to give basic rights and freedoms explicit legal expression.
Instead, it relied on the freedoms that were supposed to be embodied in the common Law belief that ‘everything is permitted that is not prohibited’. However, in recent years, the protection of civil liberties has increasingly fallen to the courts, due to the wider use of the power of judicial review and the introduction of the Human Rights Act. One of the roles of Judiciary is to ‘Defend Civil liberties’ though Judicial review, As one of the Human rights Act is Habeus corpus- the right to a fair trial.
Judges can overrule government if they are going beyond Ulta-Vires, judges can decide that other political actors are acting beyond their proper power, in recent years, judges have been increasingly willing to use this power, particularly in relation to ministers, for example if police arrest you without given reason of arrest, they are acting beyond ultra-vires, because you have a right to be given a reason for arrest and can therefore take them to court.
However, judges cannot overturn acts of Parliament because of Parliamentary sovereignty unlike in the USA, judges have very far-reaching powers of judicial review because of the existence of a codified constitution. If a law passed by congress goes against the constitution or the bill of rights – the Supreme Court can overrule that law. The Human Rights Act is a UK law passed in 1998.
It means that you can defend your rights in the UK courts and that public organisations (including the Government, the Police and local councils) must treat everyone equally, with fairness, dignity and respect. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Andrew Heywood – Essentials Of Politics- ’Protecting civil Liberties’ Pp. 287