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Counsel to the Joint Committee on Human Rights teaches Public Law class, on Parliament’s relationship with human rights

Eleanor Hourigan

In line with Goldsmiths Law’s continuous effort to teach Law in its socio-political context, exposing students to key players in the legal and political process, the department had the great pleasure of hosting Eleanor Hourigan in the “Public Law and the Human Rights Act” module in Year 1 of the LLB Law programme, coordinated by Dr Virginie Barral.

Eleanor is counsel to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, which scrutinises every Government Bill for its compatibility with human rights, including the rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) protected in UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998, common law fundamental rights and liberties and the human rights contained in other international obligations of the UK.

In her guest lecture, Eleanor discussed the role that Parliament has in respecting and enforcing human rights in the UK, with a focus on the work of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.  She asked students to consider the extent to which UK legislation has to comply with domestic and international human rights and how Parliament can ensure this is the case.

Confronting students with the historic debate on the potential creation of a UK Bill of Rights or wider effort to update the Human Rights Act and review existing constitutional structures underpinning and defining the government’s human rights obligations (in line with the Conservative government’s 2019 election manifesto), Eleanor also asked whether there is an “ownership” issue in the UK with human rights due to the method of drafting of the Human Rights Act compared to other State’s Bills of Rights.

Eleanor was previously the Deputy Permanent Representative and Legal Adviser at the UK Delegation to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (2016-2018), representing the UK in Council of Europe negotiations concerning justice matters and human rights matters – including the “DH” (Droits de l’Homme) meetings on the execution of ECtHR judgments.

In term I in Public Law and the Human Rights Act, students had another fascinating encounter with legal practice in Parliament, when the Counsel for Domestic Legislation, Daniel Greenberg, delivered a lecture on drafting legislation in the House of Commons.

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