The Human Rights (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law was brought into force on 1 September 2006.The law incorporates provisions set out in the European Convention on Human Rights into Bailiwick law. It also makes it unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which clashes with those provisions.
The law ensures that everyone in the Bailiwick is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the European Convention on Human Rights. It also allows Guernsey resident to have their cases heard in the Bailiwick's courts and tribunals. Until the law came into force, a Guernsey resident who felt that their rights had been violated had to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to have their case heard. This was costly and could take several years before a decision was reached.
The law requires all public authorities to act in a way which is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights. Public authorities who do not comply with the rights of the convention will be acting unlawfully. Bailiwick courts are also required to interpret laws in a way which is compatible with the main articles of the Convention, and where that is absolutely impossible, to either dis-apply subordinate legislation or make a statement of incompatibility.
The Guidance Document, which is available to download from this page, provides more information on what the law is and what it means in practice. It is an introduction to the law and is not a substitute for legal advice.
The answers to some common questions about the Human Rights Law are explained below, and more information can be found in the guidance document which is available to download from this page.
If you still have questions about what this law means in practice and how you might be affected by it you should seek professional legal advice.
What is the Human Rights Law for?
- The law allows cases about the rights and freedoms protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (to which the Bailiwick of Guernsey has been party for more than 60 years) to be heard in Bailiwick courts. It helps to create a society where rights and responsibilities are properly balanced and where human rights principles permeates our governmental and legal systems at all levels.
When will the Human Rights Law come into force?
- The Act was brought into force on 1st September 2006.
How does the Human Rights Law work?
- The Human Rights Law enforce the rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights in three ways:
- public authorities are not allowed to do anything to violate your rights, or you will be able to take them to court
- you are able to bring a case about your Human Rights to the Bailiwick courts
- the courts are 'public authorities' and so they must take your Human Rights into account when they pass judgements and when they are developing new legislation
What is a public authority?
- A public authority includes:
- States departments or Committees
- Parish bodies
- The police
- Courts and tribunals
- Any person or organisation that carries out some functions of a public nature
- The States Assembly is not classed as a public authority.
How can I use the Human Rights Law to enforce my rights?
- It is much easier to insist on your rights if they are written down. You can point them out to the person who you think is ignoring them. If you think that a public authority has breached your rights, you will be able to:
- take the authority to court for breaching your rights
- rely on your human rights in any case involving a public authority
Who will be able to bring a Human Rights case?
- Only a 'victim' will be able to bring a case - that means a person, a group of people or a corporate entity who have directly suffered, or are likely to suffer directly, a violation of their rights. An organisation or special interest groups will not be able to bring hypothetical test cases, but they will be able to support 'victims' taking a case.
Will I still be able to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg?
- Yes. But the Strasbourg court will want to know that you have exhausted all domestic remedies first - which will include the legal routes opened up by the Human Rights Law.
Will the law apply to things which happened before the Human Rights Law came into force?
- Generally, no. The only way it would apply is if a public authority brings a case against you about things that happened before the law came into force. You would then be able to use your Human Rights in your defence.
Does the Human Rights Law change my rights?
- No. It just makes them easier to enforce. Guernsey has been party to the European Convention on Human Rights for more than 60 years; but before the Human Rights Law came into force, Bailiwick courts could not make decisions about your human rights. This had to be done in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It can be very expensive and it often takes years to get a case to the Strasbourg court. The Human Rights Law ensures that your rights can be defended in Guernsey.