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UK government mulls 'public safety' exception to Human Rights Act

[JURIST] UK Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer [official profile] told the BBC [recorded audio] Saturday that the government was considering introducing legislation that would prevent the Human Rights Act - the UK statute that took effect in 2000 implementing the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF] - from interfering with public safety matters. He cited a recent Probation Service report [PDF] on the release of a sex attacker who later killed a 40-year-old mother of one which suggested that under the influence of the act and what Falconer called a "human rights culture" officials were "more worried about what may happen in court than reaching the right conclusion on public safety." He was also speaking in the wake of a public furor over a judge's ruling Wednesday authorizing temporary asylum for nine Afghan nationals who hijacked a plane from Afghanistan to the UK in 2000; the decision drew direct criticism from Prime Minister Tony Blair [JURIST report], and on Friday prompted British Conservative Party leader David Cameron to say that he would press to repeal the Act [JURIST report] if it were not rewritten to address the government's apparent inability to effectively deal with criminals. It's not yet clear, however, how the government will proceed; Falconer indicated that an actual amendment to the Human Rights Act itself might not be necessary, and that the requisite "political clarity" could be provided by separate legislation. He denied that the government was considering withdrawing from the underlying European Convention.

Human rights groups have reacted to proposals to limit the act with dismay, suggesting limitation would be an invitation to abuse. BBC News has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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