Thursday, June 21, 2007

Human Rights Not Gone Mad Shocker!

I first heard this story on BBC Radio 4's news but have also read it in the papers, for example, the Daily Telegraph has this.

The story concerns an elderly lady in a care home where she was placed by the council, her eviction due to issues between the care home's management and her relatives and the human rights act.

Liberty supported her as did the government.

The Law Lords found against, finding that private care homes are not providing a public service. Let us look at some quotes from those who are upset:
The civil rights group Liberty condemned the ruling saying urgent legislation was now needed to change the Act to prevent local authorities from "contracting out of dignity for Britain's elderly".
Quite possibly but that involves constraining the public body not the private one surely? You can't go around placing the responsibilities of government willy nilly on private individuals.
Help the Aged said it was "a sickening blow to older people and their families everywhere" and that it left "vulnerable older people open to neglect, abuse and eviction, without redress through the Human Rights Act".
Well I have some sympathy for the rhetoric, however older people being open to neglect and abuse is either a matter of criminal law or contractual provisions being enforced. As for eviction, as hard as it sounds, a landlord always needs the ability to evict a tenant if they are causing a problem.
The Government, who had argued in favour of the woman's case through the Lord Chancellor, were also disappointed. Baroness Ashton, Minister for Human Rights said they were now "carefully considering the implications of this judgment".
Quite right too. The government needs to consider what it can or can't contract out.

The judgement is right in my view. The Human Rights act is nothing more than enshrining the European Convention on Human Rights in British law (which is odd) which is nothing more that forcing the principles of English Common Law on Europe. The aim of this was to protect the individual against the arbitrary and unreasonably actions of the state.

The care home is a private care home not a state one. It could accept private or publicly funded residents. It operates as a for profit company. To make a private company that does some work for the public sector operate with the same responsibilities as the state is clearly wrong but also commercially not viable.


Mark Senior said...

Not knowing enough about this specific case to make more than a general comment to disagree with you that because it is a private nursing home then it should have freedom to evict a resident in any circumstances .
It is many years now since a Conservative government took action against the Rachmanns of this country and private landlords/nursing homes should not and do not have freedom to evict people from their homes anytime they feel like or for any reason whatsoever .

Benedict White said...

mark, Perhaps I was not clear, the point is not that there should be no protection from eviction, there always should be, but in laws governing the rights and responsibilities of indviduals. The human rights act governs the relationship between the state (as a specific type of individual) and every other individual. As such it it right that it should not apply here.

Obviously all other exisiting law should.

M said...

It's interesting that Liberty is backing legislation to change human rights law in this instance but it would fight tooth and nail against changes impacting the protection given to terrorists and other aggressors.

Anonymous said...

MJW, I think that Liberty are trying to extend the protection of the "individual" whilst not appreacitating that the care home owner is also a legal individual seperate from the state.

Anonymous said...

It's painful to say it because I have so much sympathy with frail old people trying to live a life with a modicum of comfort, physical safety and without worries about their personal safety, but I too believe the rights of the owners of the property are paramount.

Old folks are the only ones for which I would willingly vote for more state funding. As far as I'm concerned, everyone else is on their own - I only believe unemployment allowances should be paid for threemonths; after that, on your bike - but the elderly are fragile and no longer in a position to help themselves.

Nevertheless, the private nursing home was within its legal rights, and these should not be altered or interfered with.

Benedict White said...

Verity, it is not that the owners rights should be paramount, it is that there is already a legal framework governing the competing rights of the individuals concerned and the human rights act has nothing to do wit it.

flashgordonnz said...

This seems a balanced and reasonable decision. If the decision had gone the other way, there would have been a slow and steady reduction in the number of beds at private providers.