Human rights and statutory construction
Produced in partnership with Alexander Campbell of Field Court Chambers and Eric Metcalfe of Monckton Chambers

The following Public Law practice note produced in partnership with Alexander Campbell of Field Court Chambers and Eric Metcalfe of Monckton Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Human rights and statutory construction
  • Fundamental rights under the common law
  • The principle of legality
  • The presumption of compatibility
  • Section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998
  • The interpretative obligation under EU law

Human rights and statutory construction

There are three main canons of statutory construction relevant to the protection of human rights in the UK:

  1. the presumption that Parliament does not intend to abridge fundamental rights—the principle of legality

  2. the presumption that Parliament does not intend to legislate contrary to the United Kingdom's international obligations, including its obligations under international human rights instruments—the presumption of compatibility, and

  3. the statutory duty under section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998) to read legislation in a way which is compatible with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights so far as it is possible to do so

Prior to the UK’s exit from the EU, presumptions also existed in relation to the construction of legislation relating to/in conformity with UK obligations derived from EU law. Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU, those presumptions continue to be of relevance in relation to matters of EU law which have been transposed into domestic law as part of the UK’s arrangements for leaving the EU (ie in the context of retained EU law). However, Since the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union is expressly excluded from retained EU law, the principal human rights obligations deriving from EU law have been abridged (see below).

Fundamental rights under the common law

The common law has long recognised

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