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European human rights law has not usurped the power of Parliament

Goldsmiths Law academics respond to Lord Sumption’s third Reith Lecture on ‘Human Rights and Wrongs’

Judges at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (credit: Council of Europe)

The BBC  invites each year a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures on the radio, to advance public debate about significant issues of contemporary interest. In his third lecture this year, former Supreme Court judge, Jonathan Sumption, argued that judges, especially those of the European Court of Human Rights, have usurped the power of Parliament by expanding the interpretation of human rights law.

The lecture caused a stir in the legal world, with some commentators endorsing its key message (to reduce the impact of European human rights and bring power back to Parliament), whereas others, human rights experts in particular, have quickly responded by highlighting the vital importance of human rights and impact that the case law of the European Court of Human Rights has had in the UK, for example in relation to freedom from discrimination or the right to privacy.

Goldsmiths Law experts have reacted to the lecture. Our Head of Law, Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, has a published (with Prof Julian Petley) a long piece in Open Democracy, noting that Lord Sumption’s analysis offers a stark reminder of how deeply entrenched the anti-European human rights narrative is in the UK.

In a letter to the Times, Visiting Professor in Law, Kirsty Brimelow QC, explained that the provisions of the Human Rights Act ensure that parliament remains sovereign and the courts do not obtain extra powers.

Finally, Visiting Professor in Law, Adam Wagner, has written for the Prospect magazine, denouncing the misrepresentations and overblown criticisms of the European Court of Human Rights, and concluding that Brexit puts in serious risk the longevity of the operation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK.

The law programme at Goldsmiths offers a unique opportunity to develop expertise in issues relating to human rights, including by studying for the LLB Law with Criminal Justice and Human Rights.

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