This is both a timely and an important book. It is timely because its publication comes as both the nature of rights and the extent to which they should be protected are very much a matter of debate. There are also ongoing discussions as to what rights should be protected and to what extent they should be balanced by concomitant responsibilities. There is a further debate as to whether they should be protected by the Human Rights Act 1998 (‘the HRA’) and the European Convention on Human Rights (‘the Convention’) or by some entrenched British Bill of Rights. This book, and the arguments which it develops through its analysis of the effect that the HRA has had on private law disputes, ought to play a significant role in that debate. And it should play an important role in the development of the UK's commitment to the protection of human rights and responsibilities.
This book is a timely and important book for another reason. Its publication comes as we enter the first years of the HRA's second decade. The HRA came into force on 2 October 2000. We have had just over ten years to grapple with changes it has brought – with the rights which, in the famous phrase, it brought back home. In those ten years it has had a profound effect on the development of our law; an effect which was anticipated at the time. As the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, said in 2001:
What we can expect more of, however, is radical interpretation of legislation by the courts. This will sometimes be necessary in order to achieve compatibility with the Convention and will, in some cases, require practices and procedures to change to bring them into line with legislation interpreted in this way.
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