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Creeping European-style privacy laws will take a back seat to freedom of speech under major reforms unveiled today.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will publish proposals to address concerns that judges are drawing up privacy laws ‘by the back door’.
Ministers fear a series of controversial rulings won by celebrities and other prominent individuals has eroded freedom of expression – a key component of Britain’s democracy for centuries.
They are also understood to be concerned that ‘woke’ and ‘politically correct’ campaigners, particularly on social media, are shutting down legitimate points of view amid a growing ‘cancel culture’.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab (seen on Sky today) will publish proposals to address concerns that judges are drawing up privacy laws ‘by the back door’
Proposals for a new Bill of Rights, published today, will aim to redress the balance and make clear that free speech is pre-eminent. They will also stress that Parliament is the ‘ultimate decision-maker’ on legislation – not judges.
A senior Government source pledged the shake-up would have ‘a big impact’ by stopping ‘incremental, elastic expansion through judicial interpretation of rights’.
The insider added: ‘Our proposed reforms mean freedom of speech can be given extra weight – a couple of rungs up in the pecking order of prioritisation of rights.’
Ministers are understood to be concerned that Parliament’s role as the authoritative voice on British law has been ‘blurred’ by judges delivering rulings which ‘gold plate’ original components of the European Convention on Human Rights, agreed in 1951.
They feel its influence has been expanded far beyond what was originally intended, in areas ranging from free speech to immigration. It comes after criticism of the result of a legal case between the Duchess of Sussex and The Mail on Sunday.
Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court decision that Meghan had a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ over a letter written to her estranged father Thomas Markle.
Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court decision that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (pictured with her husband Prince Harry) had a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ over a letter written to her estranged father Thomas Markle
During a lengthy legal battle, the newspaper defended its right to publish extracts of the correspondence in 2019. Lawyers and media experts said the decision set a ‘dangerous precedent’ by extending the right of privacy to benefit the ‘rich and powerful’.
At the time of that ruling, Mr Raab said: ‘The drift towards continental-style privacy laws, innovated in the courtroom, not by elected lawmakers in the House of Commons, is something that we can and should correct.’
An earlier key case which was interpreted as judges developing their own privacy laws was brought by Formula 1 tycoon Max Mosley in 2008.
Mr Mosley, who died this year, was the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, former leader of the British Union of Fascists. He was exposed as taking part in sadomasochistic sex by the News of the World, which obtained a video of him aged 67 in an orgy with five women.
Max Mosley won £60,000 in damages against the News of the World in 2008 after it published a story about an orgy with five women, which had been wrongly described as a ‘Nazi-themed’
The High Court ruled the now-defunct newspaper breached Mr Mosley’s privacy, awarding him £60,000 in damages, and ruled it had been wrongly described as a ‘Nazi-themed’ orgy.
Mr Justice Eady said the businessman had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to his sexual activities, no matter how ‘unconventional’.
The Justice Secretary’s consultation paper today is expected to say the UK will remain party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
But it will seek to rebalance it alongside ‘quintessentially British rights’ contained in landmark documents such as Magna Carta in 1215 which put into writing for the first time the principle that the monarch and their government are not above the law.
Source: Daily Mail