Liberty clients condemn plans to scrap Human Rights Act

By agency reporter
May 19, 2016

Following yesterday's Queen’s Speech (18 May 2016), the families of Private Cheryl James, Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement and Alice Gross have condemned the Government’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act in favour of a weakened 'British Bill of Rights'.

The three families, who are all represented by Liberty, the movement for civil and human rights, are among many thousands of people who have used the Human Rights Act to hold the State to account for abuse, neglect, mistreatment and other failings.

Private Cheryl James

Private Cheryl James was 18 and undergoing training at Deepcut Barracks when she was found dead from a bullet wound in 1995. Cheryl’s parents Des and Doreen spent many years fighting for access to evidence held by the authorities about their daughter’s death. They were only provided with this evidence after Liberty threatened action under the Human Rights Act.

More than two decades after Cheryl’s death, a wide-ranging three-month inquest has now been completed and a verdict is expected on 3 June.

Des James, father of Cheryl James, said: “We spent years and years asking to see evidence about our daughter’s death – and were stonewalled over and over again. It was only the Human Rights Act that finally compelled the release of that evidence to us and, 20 years after Cheryl died, secured the wide-ranging inquest she deserved.

“The State has every interest in preventing light from being shone into dark corners. The Act allows ordinary people to challenge the power of the State. The fact that the Establishment doesn’t like that very much simply shows that the Act is working. We can’t let politicians repeal this legislation that has proved so crucial for so many ordinary people.”

Alice Gross

On behalf of the family of Alice Gross, Liberty used the Human Rights Act to ensure the inquest into her death would investigate crucial wider questions about Home Office and police systems and procedures in place when her killer came into the country.

Ros Hodgkiss and Jose Gross, parents of Alice Gross, said: “It is only thanks to the Human Rights Act that the inquest will investigate the wider circumstances of our daughter Alice’s shocking death so we can ask questions about what the authorities knew – or should have known – about her killer. We hope the answers to those questions will lead to meaningful changes that could prevent others suffering the same horrific loss.

“That is what is so important about the Act. It doesn’t just let ordinary people hold the State to account in the face of failings such as abuse or neglect – it also forces the state to improve and change things so other people’s rights will be better protected in the future.

“The Government should think about families like us before throwing away this vitally important piece of legislation.”

Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement

Sharon Hardy, Anne-Marie’s sister, said: “The Human Rights Act didn’t just give my sister back her dignity – it secured a fresh inquest and rape investigation, which have focused much-needed attention on the corrosive sexualised and bullying culture to which so many in the armed forces are shockingly exposed.

“I am one of the many relatives of servicemen and women who have used the Act to secure justice for the loved ones we’ve lost. It is outrageous and disrespectful to all those who serve our country for this Government to use the language of 'protecting our troops' to sell shameful proposals that will do the absolute opposite.

“We need the Human Rights Act now more than ever. Replacing it with a weaker Bill of Rights will leave the most vulnerable even less protected – including our armed forces.”

Ahead of the speech, a diverse coalition of more than 130 of the UK’s most prominent organisations – including Lockerbie relatives, football supporters, religious bodies and domestic violence survivors – signed a joint pledge publicly committing to oppose any attempt to repeal the Act.

Bella Sankey, Policy Director for Liberty, said: “The Prime Minister has blinked again, but his ambition to repeal the Human Rights Act has not gone away. This proposal is worthy of the Donald Trump campaign trail, not a Government that claims to govern compassionately for ‘one nation’.

“From Hillsborough to Deepcut, the Government must listen to the thousands who have relied on the Act for protection, truth and justice and dump this troubled policy once and for all.”

* More about the pledge here

* Liberty https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/

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