Other than having a comprehensive legal knowledge of divorce procedure, family law solicitors must also be fully aware of the law surrounding human rights. In April 2009 new legislation was enacted to give the media more rights to access divorce court hearings, however, a number of applications were made to courts nationwide essentially questioning whether the reporting of details of divorce cases would infringe upon the parties’ human rights.
The Human Rights Act 1998
The European Convention of Human Rights (the Convention) was incorporated into UK law on 2nd October 2000 through the inception of the Human Rights Act 1998 (the Act).
The Act ensures that courts utilise legislation in ways compatible with the Convention whilst maintaining rights to enforce parliamentary legislation where it may run contrary to the Convention.
The Act also places a duty on public authorities to ensure they are carrying out their duties in ways compatible with the Convention, and it further establishes that where primary legislation already enacted by Parliament does not comply with the Convention then the higher courts are able to make a “declaration of incompatibility” which gives the Government rights to amend UK law quickly.
UK family law and the European Convention on Human Rights
The articles contained within the Convention guarantee a European citizen a number of fundamental rights. These are, amongst others:
- The right to life (Article 2);
- The right to liberty (Article 5);
- The right to a fair trial (Article 6);
- The right to respect for private and family life (Article 8);
- The right to freedom of expression (Article 10), and;
- The right to marry and found a family (Article 12).
Articles 6 and 8 hold particular pertinence to family law proceedings as the former guarantees the right to a fair and public hearing in a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court, whilst Article 8 holds that everyone has the right to expect respect for their privacy regarding home, family life and correspondence, except where, in accordance with the law, it is necessary to protect the safety, rights and freedoms of others.
Human rights, divorce and the media – a test ruling
In July 2009, the President of the Family Division, Sir Mark Potter, made a test case ruling regarding celebrity divorce proceedings and allowing journalists in to the courtroom to report on private hearings involving children.
In this case, Sir Mark ruled to exclude the journalists who had requested attendance. He stated that, although a divorce involving celebrities was in no way different to action brought by any other couple, his decision was made solely on the sensitive nature of the case for the children involved.
He stressed awareness that a ‘celebrity divorce’ would bring great interest from journalists and the media and, in such a case, the need to protect the well-being of the children increased accordingly as a result.
On making the ruling he noted that each individual further ruling on media inclusion or exclusion would require the court to answer questions of legitimacy and proportionality, and thorough attention would have to be given as to whether the presence or barring of journalists from a family law court would comply with the Human Rights Act
Healys’ family law solicitors and knowing your Human Rights
The expert team of divorce lawyers at Healys, in London and Brighton, is dedicated to applying a wealth of experience to your divorce proceedings and all our family law practitioners have full knowledge and understanding of how the Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights may affect your particular case.
The team is dedicated to giving strong, client-focused representation throughout all stages of separation, divorce and children disputes.
If you wish to discuss any aspect of your divorce case with the family law solicitors at Healys please contact Catherine Taylor on 01273 669 124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for Brighton. For London please contact Jane Sanders on 020 7822 4107 or email email@example.com.