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01 FEB 2011

A Decade of the HRA and its Impact on Children's Rights

Jane Fortin

Professor, Sussex Law School, University of Sussex

Many will recall that when it was first introduced into Parliament, the Human Rights Bill was very controversial; some were outraged by the impending reform. One MP described it as a measure which would have ‘a seismic impact on the people of this country. It is part of the bulldozing of the constitutional landscape of the United Kingdom' (G Howarth MP, Hansard, HC Deb, vol 306, col 838 (16 February 1998)). I myself expressed some ambivalence over the extent to which the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998 would benefit children; more particularly over the domestic courts' ability to consider children as ‘persons' in their own right (J Fortin, ‘Rights Brought Home for Children' (1999) 62 Modern Law Review 350, at p 370). This was, perhaps, unduly pessimistic. Nevertheless, 4 years after the HRA's implementation in 2000, I noted the ‘peculiarly inconsistent judicial approach to the status of children,' with children's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 (European Convention) being acknowledged in some areas of law, but not others (J Fortin, ‘Children's Rights : Are the Courts Now Taking Them More Seriously?' (2004) 15 KCLJ 253, at p 254). In 2010, this patchy development appears to be continuing, with some areas of law having changed greatly over the last decade but others, very little. So far as children's rights are concerned, the situation might be described as ‘two steps forward, one step back'.

To read the rest of this article, see February [2011] Family Law journal.

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