Dominic Raab says freedom of speech has been 'whittled away'

Dominic Raab says freedom of speech has been ‘whittled away’ as he prepares to unveil new British Bill of Rights to strengthen it amid concern over rise of ‘cancel culture’

  • Plans for a Bill of Rights will aim to redress recent privacy rulings for celebrities
  • It will address concerns judges are drawing up privacy laws ‘by the back door’
  • Legislation will also seek to curb foreign criminals’ ability to appeal deportation 
  • New law would stress Parliament is the ‘ultimate decision-maker’ on legislation 

Dominic Raab today said freedom of speech was being ‘whittled down’ as he prepared to unveil a new British Bill of Rights to strengthen it amid concern over the rise of ‘cancel culture’.  

The Justice Secretary 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’. 

The new Bill of Rights will also tackle ‘vexatious’ bids by foreign criminals to avoid deportation and insist that rulings by Britain’s top judges take precedence over those from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. 

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’

Outlining the major reform, Mr Raab told Sky News: ‘It will do three things. First of all we will strengthen quintessentially British rights like freedom of speech, the liberty that guards all others. We have seen that whittled away recently for various reasons.

‘Secondly, we can prevent some of the abuses of human rights that people care about, such as the ability to scupper deportation orders for people who have been convicted of serious offences. 

‘Thirdly, one of the things that people are seeing is the goalposts shift on human rights as they expand incrementally. That should be subject to proper democratic oversight by lawmakers me accountable to your viewers.’  

The bill will also seek to curtail the ability of foreign criminals to dodge deportation on human rights grounds. 

Reforms will massively restrict the number of appeals brought under the controversial ‘right to private and family life’.

They will make it far more difficult for appeals to reach court under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which was enshrined in UK law by Labour.

Currently up to 70 per cent of foreign criminals who lodge deportation appeals do so under Article 8, claiming it will be a breach of their rights to return them to their home nation for reasons such as they have children in the UK.

But sources said under the new plans they will have to seek permission from the courts first. It is understood foreign offenders could be restricted from using Article 8 depending on the gravity of their crime or the length of their jail sentence.

A senior Government source said last night: ‘The idea is to have a permission stage that could effectively filter out spurious or vexatious claims to make sure the courts are concentrating on the genuine, credible ones.

‘The European Court itself has its permission stage as well. So in a way we’ll be following the model that Strasbourg has.’

Officials believe the changes will end interference from Europe because measures will emphasise the seniority of the UK’s Supreme Court.

Reforms by the Tory-led coalition government in 2012 attempted to stop abuse of Article 8, saying criminality should only be outweighed by family life arguments in ‘exceptional cases’.

But sources said the move failed and since then the proportion of successful appeals under Article 8 has increased. Latest figures, published in August, showed 10,882 foreign offenders have been released from prison but have avoided deportation.

The total walking the streets has rocketed by 176 per cent since 2012, when it stood at under 4,000. Ministers are also understood to believe human rights reforms are essential to their plans to shake up the parole system.

Amid concern about decisions to free offenders such as double child killer Colin Pitchfork, the Ministry of Justice is working on changes which place more weight on public protection than criminals’ rights.

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

In addition, 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. 

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.’ 

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’ 

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. 

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.

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