On 9 November 1998, the then Labour Government’s Human Rights Act received Royal Assent and became law.

The landmark legislation’s aim was to incorporate into UK law the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.  It means that courts can look at that set of rights and judge whether authorities are respecting them in their actions towards individuals.

The legislation also requires public authorities to ensure their decisions and actions comply with the rights protected in the act – which means there’s far less need for courts to get involved in the first place.

Speaking about the 20th anniversary of the act, Martin Whitfield MP said:

“The Human Rights Act is the most important human rights legislation ever passed in the UK. It allows people to defend their rights in UK courts and compels public organisations, including the Government, police and local councils, to treat everyone equally, with fairness, dignity and respect.

“Passing the Act in 1998 was a landmark development on human rights globally too. It has helped the UK to take a stand on human rights around the world – because our government can’t demand others  improve their record without committing to protect fundamental rights themselves.

“The 20th anniversary of the act is an important time to reflect on its impact and the difference it has made to the protecting the rights of British citizens. We should take this opportunity to celebrate it and the significant contribution it has made to righting wrongs over the last 20 years.”