V5.301A Implications of the Human Rights Act 1998
The European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”) was given effect in the UK with effect from 2 October 2000 by the Human Rights Act 1998. Since then, there have been several cases concerning the impact of the Convention on the civil penalty regime.
The Human Rights Act 1998 requires UK legislation to be interpreted, so far as possible, in a way which is compatible with Convention rights1. In determining a question which has arisen in connection with a Convention right, a UK court or tribunal must take into account any relevant judgments, decisions, declarations or opinions of the European Court of Human Rights2.
Article 6 of the Convention
Article 6 of the Convention is concerned with the right of a person to “a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law” in relation to “the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charges against him3”. It appears that the expression “civil rights and obligations” extends to disputes involving tax issues4.
If a tax penalty is such that it may be regarded as being a criminal penalty (regardless of its description under national law), Article 6 additionally entitles the accused to5—
(1) the presumption of innocence;
(2) the right to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and
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