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New Human Rights Act 'think tank' launched

Britain’s relationship with Europe and its impact on human rights will be the focus of a new research think-tank made up of a former judge and leading academics from across the UK.

The ‘Britain in Europe’ Research Network, which was launched at London’s Inner Temple this week (Oct 12), brings together academic scholars, legal practitioners and Non-Governmental Organisations to consider issues from an interdisciplinary perspective.

“Our aim is to influence public policy on human rights by publishing original research, at a time of growing concern about the relationship of Britain with European institutions. I am delighted by the enthusiastic response to our initial meeting”, said Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos from Brunel University London’s Law School, the architect of the new group.

Members of the network to speak at the launch event included HH Jeremy Roberts QC, a former Judge at the Central Criminal Court and Master of the Bench, Inner Temple, who argued through case studies that the European Convention on Human Rights had had a beneficial effect on UK law and practice.

Professor John Jackson, of the University of Nottingham Law School, talked about the antagonism of some parts of the press towards the Human Rights Act, adding that sections of the media took the line that we should not permit a “foreign” court “dictating the law to us”. He said that the influence was two-way and that UK law had helped to develop fair trial principles in European countries.

Professor Andrew Choo, of City Law School, pointed out that, under Strasbourg case law, fair trial remains a nebulous concept and this has allowed the UK considerable discretion, and that leaving the ECHR would strike an important blow to the UK.

Professor Ed Cape, of Bristol Law School, was critical of the lack of implementation of EU Directives on suspects’ rights and of Britain becoming increasingly indifferent to similar UN Principles.

Libby McVeigh, Legal and Policy Director of Fair Trials (formerly Fair Trials International) described the progress that the EU was making on the protection of procedural rights and, at the same time, UK reluctance to support this development.

Professor Susan Easton, of Brunel Law School, commented on the problems of influencing public policy on prisoners’ rights, particularly the right to vote.

Interdisciplinary perspectives were added by Professor Justin Fisher, Head of Politics, History and Law at Brunel, who reflected on the importance of trust in public institutions including international courts. Anti-censorship campaigner Professor Julian Petley, of Brunel University London, said it was now of critical importance to protect the Human Rights Act.

The group also benefits from the participation of members of Justice and the Open Society, and the Executive Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

The group intends to build a website and twitter page and publish its mission statement in the near future. It is currently funded by Brunel University London.