Human Rights laws “protect everyone, not just criminals,” says expert

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Human Rights laws “protect everyone, not just criminals,” says expert

13th May 2011

A legal expert has stressed that the European Convention on Human Rights should not be seen as only protecting the rights of criminals and illegal immigrants.

Mark McGhee, a specialist in Human Rights issues, was speaking after an ITV Tonight programme, 'Human Rights and Wrongs', described how some recent decisions have caused public outcry.

"The programme highlighted cases such as that of a campaign to allow prisoners be given the right to vote, and sex offenders having the right to have their names removed from the sex offenders register," said Mark, an associate with Fentons Solicitors LLP. "While these are obviously politically-sensitive subjects, it should not overshadow the fact that the European Convention and the Human Rights Act have allowed access to justice for thousands of innocent victims who would have otherwise been denied it."

Mark said it was important that scaremongering headlines and stories about cases at the extremes did not obfuscate the huge positive impact of human rights laws on a wider scale, both in our country and abroad.

"There are always highly contentious issues and rulings which can be found under any law, but we must ensure we look at the whole picture, rather than these extremes," said Mark. "Despite some opinions, the Convention protects every single person - not just criminals and illegal immigrants. It guarantees a number of fundamental rights such as the right to life, freedom of expression and the right to a fair hearing. It has already proven itself invaluable in securing help for British soldiers returning home from war suffering psychological trauma; in ensuring that mental health patients are treated with dignity and care; and in protecting the rights of children, the elderly or disabled who are reliant on others to provide care.

"We are currently acting for a number of clients who - without the Human Rights Act or ECHR laws - would simply be unable to seek justice on behalf of themselves or their loved ones," said Mark. "While I understand the need to highlight failings in a system - such as those specific cases where the law that applies to all is exploited by an unpalatable few - I also believe that it should be put into context.

"Without these laws, some of the most vulnerable in society would be open to exploitation or mistreatment, and many people who suffer serious physical or psychological injury through no fault of their own would have no opportunity to seek justice," he said. "There have been and always will be a number of decisions that lead people to sneer at the words 'Human Rights', but I would strongly urge everyone to consider the wider benefits - which apply to even those most vocal of detractors - before making a snap judgement on their value."

Mark is vastly experienced and has earned a national reputation in this highly specialised field, providing training to professionals nationwide on issues including Trauma, Human Rights and Equality & Diversity.

If you wish to discuss an issue relating to Human Rights Law, please contact Mark on 0844 893 6757, or e-mail mark.mcghee@fentons.co.uk.