The United Kingdom Bill of Rights 1998: The Modernisation of Rights in the Old World

Into a steadfastly conservative constitutional landscape, the United Kingdom Parliament has now introduced a Bill of Rights, the Human Rights Act of 1998, which takes effect in October 2000. The Act provides for a full catalogue of civil and political rights which are enforceable by the courts. This development raises two questions in evaluating the future of English law. First, does this signify the dawn of a new British radicalism? And second, why has it happened now? In answering these questions in relation to England and Wales, Part I of this Article provides an introduction to the traditional treatment of rights within the English legal system through an examination of the background context provided by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, including its impact on U.K. law to date. Part II analyzes the current substance and future role of the Human Rights Act of 1998. This Part explores the desirability of incorporating the European Convention, the content of rights under the Act, the degree of entrenchment of those rights, and the imposition of duties. Part III then explores the role of the judiciary and its procedures and various remedies for vindicating these rights. Finally, the Article concludes by gauging the potential impact of the new Bill of Rights, finding that although the changes to be brought about by the Human Rights Act of 1998 are certainly an important development in English law, they will not be as revolutionary in application as they might first appear.