A general guide to the Human Rights Act, with information about your human rights and what you can do if someone doesn't respect them.
Human rights are basic rights and freedoms which we all have. They cannot be taken away, although they can be restricted in certain circumstances.
These rights come from the European Convention on Human Rights. You can find out more about this on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.
You are protected under the Human Rights Act if you live in the UK. This includes if you are a foreign national, detained in hospital or in prison.
The Human Rights Act is important because:
Andrei is from South Africa but lives in London. He can use the Human Rights Act to protect his rights.
He cannot be locked up without reason. If he is sectioned, the hospital must make sure that:
This is because of Article 5: Right to liberty and security.
You can bring a claim against public authorities or public bodies exercising public functions if you think they have not respected your human rights.
If you feel that your employer has discriminated against you because of your mental health problem, see our information on discrimination at work.
If you are living with a mental health problem, it's important for you to know your rights under the Human Rights Act because:
For example, knowing your rights under the Human Rights Act can be important if you are detained, or kept in hospital, under the Mental Health Act.
Being 'sectioned' means that you are kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act. There are different types of sections, each with different rules to keep you in hospital. The length of time that you can be kept in hospital depends on which section you are detained under.
See our pages on sectioning for more information.See our full list of legal terms.
These are organisations whose role is of a public nature. This includes:
This means an act or activity taken by a public authority which is not a service. A public authority carries out a public function when it performs its particular legal duties and powers. Examples of public functions are licensing, planning and enforcement of parking.
Public authorities can get private companies or voluntary organisations to carry out their public functions. So for example, a private company that run prisons and takes prisoners into custody would be considered a private company carrying out a public function.See our full list of legal terms.
‘Bringing a claim’ means going to court to try to put right a breach of your legal rights, for example your human rights. You can also bring a claim in other areas of law.See our full list of legal terms.
This is a law that applies to England and Wales which allows people to be detained in hospital (sectioned) if they have a mental health disorder and need treatment. You can only be kept in hospital if certain conditions are met.
See our pages on the Mental Health Act for more information.See our full list of legal terms.
This information was published in January 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.