Human rights are based on important principles like dignity, fairness, respect and equality. They protect you in your everyday life regardless of who you are. Your rights are principally protected by the 1998 Human Rights Act which all public bodies in the UK must obey.
The police and other public bodies have a duty to protect you if they know your life is in danger. If say your daughter in a mental hospital is suicidal and is not being properly supervised, or if your seriously ill father is subjected to a “Do not resuscitate” notice without consultation – then you can take legal action.
Private life has a broad meaning. It means you have the right to live your life with privacy and without interference by the state. Family life includes the right to have and maintain family relationships. It covers your right not to be separated from your family and to maintain contact if your family is split up. You might have a case if say your husband has dementia and is only offered a care home place too far away for you to visit.
This right means you mustn’t be imprisoned or detained unless there’s a law which allows it and the correct procedure is followed – for example, the imprisonment of criminals. If say a local authority agrees to temporarily take a child with learning difficulties into care while the parent is unwell, but they subsequently detain the child without good reason, then the parent can challenge this.
You must not be tortured or suffer inhuman or degrading treatment. This right might be relevant if say you found a relative in a care home was unwashed in dirty clothes and was not being fed properly.
A fair trial means you have the right to a hearing which is fair, public, heard by an independent and impartial court or tribunal, and is heard within a reasonable time. With criminal proceedings you have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the right to know why you’re being prosecuted, the right to defend yourself and the right to legal aid if you can’t afford legal representation, the right to be in court during the trial, and the right not to say anything that may incriminate you.
This article protects your right to hold both religious and non-religious beliefs. It may for instance allow time off work or school for religious holidays.
The Human Rights Act provides several other rights including the protection of property, freedom of expression, non-discrimination, your right to education and to join a union.
If you are not satisfied with the decisions made in the English courts, you have the right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Last year 70 year old stroke victim Elaine McDonald won compensation from her local council because they failed to fund her agreed care plan. However, such wins are rare – only 3 or 4 of the hundreds of UK cases considered each year succeed.