In 1998 the Human Rights Act swept in on a bow wave of heady expectation. It was the dawn of a new era and the end of the dark ages. Britain was, at long last, a properly civilised country where everyone was going to have tons and oodles of rights for everything they could possibly want and anything they could possibly imagine and the whole thing was to be busily administered by an army of publicly-funded lawyers and functionaries. The Human Rights Act was heralded was the modern Social Democrat version of the Magna Carta.
This was the pot of gold at the end of the Entitlements Rainbow; the sweet reward for decades of interminable squawking, marching, banner-waving and shouting the word ‘fascist’.
Courtrooms would now become shopping malls where anyone can just swan in, pick up some rights (in size and colour to suit) and leave with bags full of them, gift-wrapped.
I took a rather different view. My appraisal of the Human Rights Act was that it was a pernicious harbinger of Swiftian stupidities and a cornerstone of a permanent nanny-state. Nothing since has given me the slightest cause to review my initial opinion, indeed, it has only been reinforced. But, interestingly, it appears to be dawning on some of the dewey-eyed believers that this is not the New Jerusalem they were expecting:
I am not the only one who worried that the introduction of the Human Rights Act might backfire on those of us who worry about little things like rape, murder, child abuse and prostitution. Certainly some of the fears many feminists had about fancy lawyers defending all sorts of scum in the name of “rights” proved well founded. HRA cases have included the right of a man accused of rape to hear details of a complainant’s sexual history for the benefit of his defence and – turned down only after serious deliberation – serial killer Dennis Nielsen to be allowed gay pornography in prison, based on the argument that heterosexual serial killers are allowed theirs.
In countries in which real human rights violations blight the lives of millions, there is confusion about why we westerners are using the act to argue, for example, that a man has the right to sunbathe naked in his own garden. Is that really the best we can do?
Cry me a river.
If I had my way, the wretched Human Rights Act would be repealed and every copy in the land would be fed into an industrial shredder.