Human Rights Act 1998

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. Applies to England and Wales.

Articles 8, 9, 10, 12, 14

Article 8: Right to a private and family life

This is a qualified right, which includes:

  • respect for your sexuality
  • the right to make choices for yourself, and the right to have your body and mind respected
  • respect for private and confidential information, particularly the storing and sharing of this information (in the UK this is largely covered by the Data Protection Act 1998: see our information on accessing your personal information)
  • the right not to be followed or recorded by the government, when the government has no legal right to do so
  • the right to have confidential and unlimited communication with others
  • the right to control how information about your private life is shared, including photographs that have been taken secretly
  • being able to see friends and family.

It can be limited if it is part of the law, ‘necessary in a democratic society’ and for one of the following ‘legitimate aims’:

  • in the interests of national security
  • in the interest of public safety
  • for the economic well-being of the country
  • for the prevention of disorder or crime
  • for the protection of health or morals
  • for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The ban on smoking in hospitals is not a breach of Article 8.

Examples

  • Jenny was promised that her care home would be her ‘home for life’ but the council decided to close it down and to move her somewhere else.
  • Juan was detained in hospital under section 3. He was not given any information about the section or his right to go to a Tribunal to challenge the decision to keep him in hospital.
  • Julie was detained in hospital under section 2. Her neighbour telephoned her doctor to see how she was. The doctor gave her neighbour information about her diagnosis, medication and treatment.
  • Jon was not allowed to see his partner while he was in hospital.

These are all possible breaches of Article 8: Right to a private and family life.

Article 9: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

This is a qualified right which includes:

  • the right not to believe in anything
  • non-religious beliefs like veganism and pacifism
  • the freedom to change your beliefs at any time
  • not being forced to believe in something.

It can be limited where it is necessary and fair in order to protect:

  • public safety
  • public order
  • health or morals
  • the rights and freedoms of other people.

Examples

  • Jada has been told that the only bed available is on a mixed ward and that the only doctor available to give her a medical examination is male. This is against her religion.
  • Judeana is detained under section 3. The hospital has not provided her with kosher food.

These could be breaches of Article 9: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Article 10: Freedom of expression

This is a qualified right which lets you hold opinions and express them freely:

  • verbally
  • in writing
  • through television, radio or the internet.

Freedom of expression includes freedom of the media to report court proceedings. However, this freedom may be restricted for health reasons, or if it affects other human rights such as privacy or fair trial.

Proceedings involving people with mental health problems, for example at the Mental Health Tribunal, are usually in private.

Example

Marco is due to have a hearing in the Court of Protection. These normally take place in public, so if it wants to protect Marco’s right to privacy the Court of Protection has to make an order for anonymity (an order to stop anyone using details which might identify the parties in a case, such as their name). An order of anonymity might be used if someone involved in a case is particularly vulnerable. The Court has to balance Marco’s right to privacy with the media’s right to report the information.

Article 12: Right to marry

Article 12 is a qualified right which allows people to marry under English law.

Certain patients who are detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 are not able to get married or enter into a civil partnership.

Example

Julian was detained under section 2. He was not able to enter into a civil partnership until he was allowed to go back into the community or put on a section 3.

This is not a breach of his rights under Article 12: The right to marry.

 

Article 14: Right not to be discriminated against

This is a limited right which protects you from discrimination on any of the following grounds:

  • sex
  • race
  • colour
  • language
  • religion
  • political or other opinion
  • national or social origin
  • other status – this includes disability.

But you can only use this Article if another human rights Article has been engaged.

Examples

If you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your mental health problem, you would normally use the Equality Act 2010: see our information on discrimination.

 


This information was published in August 2017. We will revise it in 2019.


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