‘New toy’ of human rights has put common law ‘in the shade’, says Lord Neuberger

Lord Neuberger

Lord Neuberger

Human rights have been a “new toy” for lawyers which they have favoured over the common law, the President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger has said.

In a lecture delivered at an event held by the Personal Support Unit, Lord Neuberger said human rights legislation has “put the common law in the shade” and that “the temptation to play with the new toy at the expense of the old toy is natural”.

This tendency, he said, was “disparaged” in the Supreme Court case of Osborn (2013), in which Lord Reed said that the Human Rights Act “does not … supersede the protection of human rights under the common law …, or create a discrete body of law based upon the judgments of the European court. Human rights continue to be protected by our domestic law”.

The Supreme Court President added that, in the 2014 Kennedy case, “Lord Mance and Lord Toulson reiterated the point and concluded that the common law might well give a journalist the right to see documents relating into a Charity Commission inquiry in circumstances where human rights law as developed in Strasbourg would not.”

It was reported last December that Prime Minister Theresa May will make the case for withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights as part of her 2020 election campaign.