Free Human Rights Act Essay Sample

The Human Rights Act 1998 came into force on October 2000. The aim of the act was to ensure that a set of Human rights, listed in the act were fully respected and enforced in UK. The act changed the way UK system of justice worked and made public that authority to be more accountable for their decisions. The effect of the Act was to put Human rights at the centre of the UK legal system. Under the human rights, everyone was entitled to basic human rights from the government, all public agencies and organizations. incase their rights were ignored, they were supposed to bring a case in the UK courts to challenge an action or a decision by any public authority on the grounds that it interfered with their rights, for example, rights to express their views freely, their right to privacy or their right to a fair trial in court.

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The law before 1998 Human Rights Act

In many respects, the rights that were introduced by the human rights acts 1998 were not new as they had been bidding on the UK government since 1951. The only new fact was that the people could now hold public authorizes directly accountable in the UK itself. Before the Human Rights Act, human right standards were applied only in Strasbourg court, over the years, the European court of human rights found that the UK has violated individual's human rights in many varied cases.

Before the Human rights act 1998, anyone who claimed that their rights have been violated had no choice but to bring a case in Strasbourg. People were unable to make the arguments in the UK courts that their rights have been violated. Taking a case to Strasbourg was time consuming and an expensive process. An example is that it meant that someone who believed that they have not been given a fair trial would have to appeal all the way though the UK courts, this is without being able to have their human rights arguments properly addressed, then go to the court in Strasbourg which would  eventually take a considerable time before reaching a final decision in the case. Under the human rights Act 1998, human rights standards are applied from the beginning meaning that the process is considerably simpler.  

The reasons why human rights must be protected is that they are inherent and universal meaning that everyone is entitled to human rights. This because they are essential to human dignity. They are inherent as they are forthright of all human beings. They are not granted, but they are reason for their humanity. Human rights are universal as they apply to everyone in regardless of their nationality, status, sex or race.

The rights guaranteed by the European convention and the Human Rights Acts range form basic guarantees such as the right to life to ensuring that people are given fair hearing in courts, to protection of privacy and free expression and protection against discrimination.

Article 8, the right to respect for private and family life and home which  protects individual's right to privacy and prevents a public authority from intruding into a person's life was included by the European convention rights. Article 8 may be violated in some cases by subjecting people to surveillance, or intercepting their telephone calls or publishing newspaper accounts of their private life. It also protect rights to family and this means that decisions regarding custody or adoption must take into account the rights to family life of all those involved. It basically protects the individual's right to physical integrity and the right to respect for the home.

The issues of privacy and intrusion by press into private lives have been a problem over the past. Many people have fallen victims of intrusion in their private lives hence violating their lives as human beings. This is mostly seen as lack of respect to the other person. As Carolyn Doyle, Mirko Bagaric2005:32 argues, every person has a legal right to be respected by the other people. However, the respect should be reciprocated. That is, the other person should also show respect.

 Carolyn Doyle, Mirko Bagaric2005:32 continue to argue that the only way one can show respect for the others is only by respecting their rights as human beings. As they observes, personal autonomy and privacy are closely related. Autonomy has been described as the individual's right to act. That is, the individuals feel protected and free to act. Privacy on the other hand has been seen as individual's freedom from intrusion. As Carolyn Doyle, Mirko Bagaric2005:32 has defined autonomy as freedom of will, liberty or sovereignty. As Carolyn Doyle, Mirko Bagaric2005:38 continues to argue that from the utility gain point of view, the privacy right is necessary only if it leads to an extra happiness,.

While implementing the privacy rights of individuals, it is very important to take into the account the rights of other persons. It is necessary to consider how one's exercise of right is going to affect others in the process of exercising their rights and the interests of the public in general.

According to Carolyn Doyle, Mirko Bagaric2005:40 The way a person's privacy right is treated legally  will depend on the complex balancing process. For instance, there is a need to analyse clearly individual's right to keep confidential information and the benefits which the community in general would derive from disclosure of such information.

The right to privacy is mostly concerned about information of individuals. The main criteria used to determine whether information is privacy sensitive or not is whether the information touches the life of an individual which the community judges as too personal (Carolyn Doyle, Mirko Bagaric2005:42) However, what is defined as being too intimate will again depend on the social core values which will help to draw a line between social and personal life. As Carolyn Doyle, Mirko Bagaric2005:43 maintains that with time, some of the issues considered to be private will may cease to be personal as the core values of the society continues to change. Society is very dynamic and people are continuously revising their values and this will lead to changes in their opinions.

According to As Carolyn Doyle, Mirko Bagaric2005:32 some of information that individuals wishes to keep for themselves includes individuals drugs abuse, sexual orientation, health and information about one's marriage.

One of the critics towards the privacy of information is that exercising this right will give individuals an opportunity to present themselves in a different way from inner self As Carolyn Doyle, Mirko Bagaric2005:44 it is easier to exaggerate ourselves to get what we want through the protection of the privacy rights.

Since Human Rights Act of 1998 was implemented, there are several cases which have been taken to the court touching the privacy matters.

Naomi Campell's case

Naomi Campbell is one of the most famous celebrities in the world. She is an English super model and actress who has significantly attracted the attention of the press. Just like other famous individuals, Naomi has frequently found herself at logger heads with the press for disclosing her information which she considers private.

One of the key cases concerning the famous celebrity Naomi Campbell involved the Mirror Group Limited. According to 1COR Resources (2010), Naomi accused Mirror Group limited for publishing her photographs while she was leaving a rehabilitation clinic in King's Road Chelsea. The Daily Mirror had also published information concerning her addiction to drugs. Naomi felt that the Mirror Group Limited had no legal right to disclose that she was visiting the Narcotics Anonymous over her addiction to drugs as it affected her personal life. Naomi claimed that this act was violating her right for privacy. She felt offended because the paper had disclosed information about her which she considered to be too intimate and should not have been released to the public. Some of confidential information is very critical especially to the famous people. In this case, the newspaper disclosed that Naomi was being treated for drug addiction. In this case, the court tried to balance the right to privacy for Naomi under Article 8 and the news paper's freedom of expression under Article 10 (1COR Resources 2010). In this case, the court critically weighed the public interest to have the information published against the public interest to have Naomi's privacy protected (Swan turton Solicitors 2002)

The judge commented that the information in question about Naomi was very confidential. Therefore, the newspaper was expected to keep this information confidential. The judge argues that the newspaper right for expression cannot be used to justify the publication of the information which led to violation of Naomi's privacy right (1COR Resources 2010).Although famous people like Naomi Campbell should expect exposure to the eye of the public, it is important also to bear in the mind that a room should be left for their privacy (Swan turton Solicitors 2002). The judge held that though the Newspaper had a right to publish that Naomi was in the clinic receiving treatment after taking drugs but the additional information and the photographs was a violation of privacy right.

Defending herself, Naomi argued that although the fact that she was addicted to drugs and was undergoing treatment was known to the public, it was intrusion to her privacy right for the paper to disclose the place where she was going for her treatment and her publication of her photographs (1COR Resources 2010).

According to Swan turton Solicitors, the judge wanted Naomi to clarify whether the publication contained any content touching her privacy (2002). This was an effort to determine whether the issue at hand really deserved to be treated as confidential. The judge also commented that the fact that the paper published information about Naomi's visit to the clinic could in one way or another have affected her attendance for the therapy.

1COR Resources indicates that courts have recognized a variety of information that can be considered private hence limited to the public (2010). For instance, the Strasbourg Court has clearly stated that information touching individual's health as well as the ill health should be treated as private. The court will find anybody guilty for disclosing such information without the consent of the person to whom it pertains. The above case demonstrates very clearly how the court has been recently handling cases of human rights act 1998. The court is now considering disclosure of some information on private life to the public as offensive. Lord Hope argues that it would be advisable to determine whether the disclosure of any information about somebody would be offensive before dissemination such information (1COR Resources2010). Concerning Naomi's case, the disclosure of the number of visits she visited the clinic and the place of meeting should not have been disclosed. Otherwise, the paper should have refrained from giving such additional elements which led to humiliation.

By publishing Naomi's photos, it shows that the paper was more concerned about coming up with a story that will capture interest of the public without concentrating on its credibility. The court felt that Naomi ought to be protected to keep her private information confidential.

Defending themselves, the Mirrors argued that Naomi had already put her life on the eye of the public (Swan turton Solicitors 2002). The Daily Mirror argued further that Naomi had misled the public by claiming that she was not drug addicted.

However, the case finally was ruled in favor of Naomi. The case left Daily Mirror with a legal cost bill of more than one million dollars.

According to the BBC news, Lord Hope who ruled in favor of Naomi argued that although the press deserves the freedom of expression if they play their part well, the violation of Naomi's privacy in this case cannot be justified (2004).

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The case of QBD (Morland J) on March 27 2000

The clamant was an internationally known fashion model and celebrity who sought damages for the breach of confidentiality and compensation under article 13, Data Protection Act 1998 in articles that were published by the defendant. The articles adversely revealed that she the claimant was abusing drugs and also the defendant has added the information that she was attending the Narcotics Anonymous for rehabilitation for drug addiction.

According to (1COR Resources2010), the publication of articles concerning the claimants treatment for drug addiction violated her privacy rights under section 8 which prevailed over the right of press under article 10.

The claimant made a claim that she suffered distress, anxiety and embarrassment which she said that they were aggravated by the publications in the mirror MGN's conduct of the trial.  

While the claimant agreed that it was true that the mirror was allowed to publish these claims, she didn't however  agree that it was of public interest to know that the therapy was conducted at the narcotics anonymous. she argued that the details of her visits were private and very confidential.

In relation to article 8 and article 10 of the convention, there was a striking balance that the claimant was entitled to the remedy of damages or compensation. The confidential details of her attendance to the Narcotics Anonymous had the necessary confidence quality in them. The confidential details were obtained erroneously and were assisted by a covert photography when the claimant was low key and engaged in private activity. Relatively the information containing her regular meetings for therapy must have been imparted in circumstances importing an obligation of confidence. These publications were to be the claimant's detriment as they were viewed objectively and likely to affect her attendance and participation adversely.  

According to (1COR Resources2010), there is an argument that although many details  of the private lives of celebrities and public figures would inevitably enter the public domain, in this case it did not follow that, every aspect and detail of their private lives was legitimate quarry for the journalist(1COR Resources2010). They are entitled to some space of privacy and the  media needed to conform with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by respecting information about aspects or details of the private lives of celebrities and public figures that they legitimately chose to keep private, certainly "sensitive personal data" under the 1998 Act, unless there was an overriding public interest duty to publish consistent with Article 10(2) of the Convention (1COR Resources2010),

In relation to the claimant's argument that she was entitled to damages for distressed caused by the defendant's conduct of the trial, the court had the following observation to make. If a newspaper conducts its defense or published articles that belittled the claimant in relation to her claim for breach of confidential information insofar as that belittlement caused increased injury to the claimant's feelings it would sound in aggravated damages because MGN were rubbing salt into her wounds (1COR Resources2010). The judge conclusion was that the  Mirror's conduct during the trial had not aggravated the claimant's distress or injury to feelings however, the article published about her claim did so and sounded in aggravated damages of £1,000. The total sum for both damages for breach of confidentiality and for compensation under s.13 of the 1998 Data Protection Act was awarded £3,500.

Princess Diana's case

According to (Leeds, 1997-1998), in the princess Diana privacy laws and press freedom in the united kingdom, 1998, before Diana's death in September 1997, she has confronted the British press in vain for her privacy following her private life intrusion and her sons. Following the revelation of her friendship with Dodi Fayed , who was the son of the wealthy and controversial owner of Harrods , the press and photographers were anxious to photograph her on holiday in France with the Fayed.

Despite being a  public figure  as the mother of future king,  she was known to have meetings with favored journalists which left her open to accusations of manipulating the media for her own purposes and only complaining  about publicity when it was not controlled by her (Leeds, 1998). Following her divorce from the Prince of Wales, she appealed to the media many times to leave both them and their children alone so that they might get on with their lives. However, In July 1996, Princess Diana complained to the Press Complaints Commission about  intrusive' pictures which were for her on holiday in France which were published in the Daily Mirror. She also obtained an injunction against a press photographer, who allegedly has been harassing  her for a long time in August 1996. This injunction prevented   him from coming within 300 meters of her. The man, with the name Martin Stenning, was the photographer involved in an incident earlier in 1996 in which the Princess had jumped out of her car and took his motor cycle ignition key to prevent him from following her (Leeds, 1997-1998). Ironically, the death of Princess According to (Leeds 1997,1998), following their mother's death newspaper editors admitted that  William and Harry (Diana's sons), would not want to pose for them in the foreseeable future as it was agreed to satisfy the public interest in occasional photo calls. Relatively, Lord Spencer demanded at Princess Diana's funeral that her beloved boys should be protected from suffering a similar fate and he was backed up by the Prime Minister and Lord Wakeham, chairman of the Press Complaint Commission (Leeds 1997, 1998).

Based on the ruling of the court on Princess Diana's case, it is clearly evident that human rights act 1998 was been put into practice. The ruling of the court that the Daily Mirror was not supposed to expose Naomi's private information to the public is a clear indication that the court recognizes that the press should not intrude into individual's private life in the name of exercising their right of expression. The case emphasizes on the fact that people should exercise their rights wisely in a way that they don't violate the rights of others (Leeds 1997,1998).

The case of Niema  Ash v Loreena McKennitt [2006] EWCA Civ 171

Another case that touches the issues of privacy is the case which involved Niema Ash v Loreena McKennitt (2006) EWCA Civ 171. This case raised critical issues involving individual's privacy. The case raised questions of whether the individual's right for privacy has been violated by publicatuion of his or her confidential information.

McKennitt was a very famous musician from Canada and Niema was a former friend. Niema had written a book which included his former friend information (1COR Resources 2010). This information exposed details of   McKennit's personal and intimate life. McKennit's complained that Niema was not supposed to reveal such information to the public as it jeopardized her private life. In her book, Niema had included the details of McKennit's friend who had died in an accident while sailing. The court ordered the publication of the book to be stopped (1COR Resources 2010).

However, Niema appealed against the decision to stop the publication of the material (1COR Resources 2010). Defending herself, Niema argued that the content in the material was just an expression of her own encounters in life did not reflect McKennit's life only. She argued that this was a representation of what was happening in the society. According to the 1COR Resources (2010), this information had already reached the public and that it was a public interest to have the material published. This case raises another issue of what should be considered private.

In this case, the court decision weighed between the Article 8 which analysis individual's right to keep confidential information private, versus the Article 10 which talks about the freedom of speech and expression (1COR Resources (2010),.  McKennitt has a right to keep her intimate life private free from intrusion. On the other hand, Niema had a right of speech. She has a right to express her self freely through writing. Therefore, the court had to balance between these two sides.

According to 1COR Resources 2010, judge Buxton identified that most of this information which Niema included in his publication was obtained because the two people were very close to one another. In this connection, Buxton argued that this was a different case from others where information was obtained through underhand methods. Therefore, Niema should have clearly known that she was not supposed to expose this information which she obtained from McKennitt to the public. Buxton commented that information about the health condition of an individual is private and it is not supposed to be passed to the public without the consent of the person it pertains (1COR Resources 2010). In this case, Buxton argued that Niema was not entitled to expose the condition of McKennit's health since she had obtained the information from their intimate relationship.

The public interest was also put into consideration. The court found that there was no adequate

evidence to justify the public interest to have McKennit's private life exposed.

From the arguments made in this case, it can be seen that the courts have been treating the cases of

privacy and intrusion into the intimate lives very seriously. This has significantly helped the public figures

in confiding their intimate lives from the eye of the public. As Buxton argues in this case, the court is

now treating information  such as individual's state of mind as private and the court can find anybody

guilty for disclosing such information.

In conclusion, the issue of privacy is very sensitive especially when it comes to the lives of famous people like celebrities and disclosure of such information can negatively affect their lives as part of the society. As Naomi's lawyer Keith Schilling states, such protection will help to maintain ones personality and protection of issues of privacy especially the cases pertaining treatment and therapy like the one Naomi was undergoing (BBC NEWS 2004). Therefore by recognizing individual's right to retain their private lives a secret, the court is protecting individuals as part of the society.

As Carolyn Doyle, Mirko Bagaric2005:32 argues, every person in the society has a legal right to be respected by other people. Intrusion into others private lives is seen as lack of respect to others and this can affect the way the society lives. Relatively, such information like drugs abuse, sexual orientation, health and information touching marital issues are very sensitive and need to be treated as intimate (Carolyn Doyle, Mirko Bagaric2005:32)                                                                                                            

Article 8 of the ECHR, Right to respect for private and family life stated that, everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence

This in general concludes that the famous people are protected by the law according to human Rights act of 1998 article 8 which clearly demonstrate that they should have right to privacy and their lives should not be interfered with. This further states that article 8 might be violated where people are subjected to surveillance, interception of their telephones or publishing newspaper accounts of their private lives. This protects the individuals right to family life of all those involved.


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