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.
Human rights are basic rights and freedoms which we all have. They cannot be taken away, although they can be restricted in certain circumstances.
In the UK, our human rights are protected by law. This law is called the Human Rights Act 1998.
- The Human Rights Act gives you legal protection of your human rights, such as your right to life, or your right to a fair trial.
- There are 16 rights in total, and each one is referred to as a separate article, for example, Article 2: Right to life.
- 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.
- All public authorities or bodies exercising public functions need to follow the Human Rights Act. However, individual and private companies do not.
- If your human rights haven't been respected, you should first try to resolve it informally, then use a formal complaints procedure, and if that fails you can take legal action by going to court. You should always get legal advice before going to court.
- If a court agrees that your human rights have been breached, it can award you compensation, make a declaration that your rights have been breached, overturn decisions made by a public authority or order them to do something.
These are organisations whose role is of a public nature. This includes:
- NHS hospitals and employees
- local authorities and their employees
- some nursing and personal care accommodation providers
- prison staff
- courts and tribunals, including Mental Health Tribunals
- government departments and their employees
- statutory bodies and their employees (for example the Information Commissioner’s Office).
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.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
This information was published in January 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
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