Courts as a ‘public authority’ and the horizontal effect of Convention rights–an introduction and case analysis
Produced in partnership with Arthur Moore of Hardwicke Chambers
Courts as a ‘public authority’ and the horizontal effect of Convention rights–an introduction and case analysis

The following Public Law guidance note Produced in partnership with Arthur Moore of Hardwicke Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Courts as a ‘public authority’ and the horizontal effect of Convention rights–an introduction and case analysis
  • Horizontal effect of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Statutory interpretation and the Convention
  • Common law and Convention rights
  • Taking account of case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
  • Key principles

This Practice Note considers the court’s position as a ‘public authority’ for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998) and the effect on judgments concerning the relationship between non-state individuals (‘private individuals’), the so called ‘horizontal effect’ of Convention rights.

Horizontal effect of the European Convention on Human Rights

The UK was one of the first signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) but prior to HRA 1998 the Convention was regarded simply as an international treaty, not enforceable directly by private individuals against each other in the domestic courts. The aim of the Convention was to protect these fundamental rights from interference by a state government, ie ‘vertical effect’.

While the coming into force of HRA 1998 in 2000 undoubtedly radically and deliberately changed this landscape, no specific provision was made in regard to the enforceability of Convention rights between private individuals. Indeed, Article 1 of the Convention which imposes a positive obligation on the State to protect (as opposed to a purely negative obligation not to infringe) the Convention rights of individuals within that state was not included at all in the list of Convention rights in HRA 1998, Sch 1.

Instead, HRA 1998, s 6(1) makes it unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is ‘incompatible’ with the Convention,