Status of Strasbourg case law
Produced in partnership with Alexander Campbell of Field Court Chambers and Eric Metcalfe of Monckton Chambers
Status of Strasbourg case law

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:

  • Status of Strasbourg case law
  • Background to HRA 1998, s 2
  • Convention rights under HRA 1998, Sch 1 are legally distinct
  • The mirror principle
  • Exceptions to the mirror principle
  • HRA 1998, s 2 and stare decisis

Any UK court or tribunal faced with an issue involving a Convention right is required to 'take into account' any judgment or decision of the European Court of Human Rights. In practice, however, the established approach of the UK courts has been to treat final judgments of the Strasbourg Court as binding unless there is some good reason not to. This Practice Note therefore sets out the key principles concerning the status of Strasbourg case law in UK courts.

Background to HRA 1998, s 2

The UK was the first country to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) in March 1951.

Until the enactment of Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998), however, UK courts had no power to give effect to Convention rights because the Convention had not been incorporated into UK law. See: R v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Brind.

UK courts nonetheless had regard to judgments of the Strasbourg Court before the enactment of HRA 1998. See: Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers.

The purpose of HRA 1998 was to enable UK courts to give effect to Convention rights in the first instance, rather than require individuals to complain to Strasbourg. An additional benefit of HRA 1998 was that it would enable UK courts to contribute to the development of the jurisprudence of the Strasbourg Court.

During parliamentary debates on

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