LORD BINGHAM AND THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1998

LORD BINGHAM AND THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1998: THE SEARCH FOR DEMOCRATIC LEGITIMACY DURING THE “WAR ON TERROR”

By Richard Clayton QC

In March 1993, Lord Bingham added his voice to those calling for the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law. He concluded his Denning Lecture on what he described as a “downbeat note”:

It would be naive to suppose that incorporation of the Convention would usher in a new Jerusalem. As on the morrow of a general election, however glamorous the promises of the campaign, the world will not at once feel very different. But the change would over time stifle the insidious and damaging belief that it is necessary to go abroad to obtain justice. It would restore our country to its former place as an international standard-bearer of liberty and justice. It would help to reinvigorate the faith, which our eighteenth and nineteenth century forbears would not for an instant have doubted, that these were fields in which Britain was the world’s teacher, not its pupil. And it would enable the judges more effectively to honour their ancient and sacred undertaking to do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of their realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.


This characteristic combination of caution, history and vision gives an important insight into the approach taken by Lord Bingham to human rights issues over the last decade and a half of his judicial career.

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Richard Clayton QC