Are civil liberties protected sufficiently in the UK?

1079 words 5 pages
Are civil liberties protected sufficiently in the UK?
Civil liberties are basic rights and freedoms granted to citizens of a country through national common or statute law. They include freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom from arbitrary arrest, freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of religious worship. Such rights and freedoms form the basis of a democratic society and are often denied to those living in a dictatorship. Civil liberties are distinct from human rights in that the latter are universal rights and freedoms to which all people throughout the world are deemed to be entitled however, the two often converge. The UK judiciary has several methods that provide an effective protection of civil liberties
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On the other hand, the sovereignty of Parliament does provide a large difficulty to the judiciary's ability to protect liberty. Acts of Parliament are binding on all bodies within the UK, including the Supreme Court. The sovereign status of Parliament puts it above the judiciary, and if a ruling is passed that the government do not like, they can always legislate to avoid the ruling. This was seen in 2005 when in response to the Belmarsh case the government passed the 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act. This act allowed the use of control orders which got around the judicial ruling banning detention without trial. This shows that the sovereignty of Parliament hinders the judiciary's ability to protect liberty.

In addition to this, judges cannot be pro-active in Britain and must wait for appeals to come before engaging in their protective role. The Belmarsh case of 2004 was 3 years after the original 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act and was not brought until the pressure group Liberty brought the case forward in behalf of the detainees. This means that erosion of civil liberty can stand for years until someone challenges it, making the effectiveness of judges appear weak.

Finally, due to the lack of an entrenched constitution, erosion of civil liberty is very easy for the government to do, and very difficult for judges to reverse. Labour's range of anti-terror laws followed by ID cards, the DNA database and expansion of CCTV all were programs that the judges


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