Lord Hughes (former Justice UKSC) on how English criminal procedure thinks of European human rights

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

Editor's Note: Lord Hughes' Address was originally given on the 27 May 2019


Lord Hughes of Ombersley delivers the keynote address, discussing the complex relationship between English criminal procedure and international human rights, notably rights protected by the ECHR.


Former Justice at the UK Supreme Court, Lord Hughes of Ombersley, delivers the keynote address at Goldsmiths Law's annual criminal justice symposium (27 May 2019), at the British Academy, discussing the complex relationship between English criminal procedure and international human rights, notably rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.


Lord Hughes concludes his address by noting:

“These fundamental rights [ECHR rights] are very important – they’re often debated, they’re sometimes inspirational, they throw up the most fascinating meeting points of the common law and different legal cultures – they’re a long way from being the prime source of English criminal law and procedure.”
“They’re fundamental to us, in the sense that their ideas are embedded in our system, absolutes they’re not and we need to be careful about claiming that they’re absolutes.”
“The reality is that there is a huge scope for debate about their content and that debate has to be resolved by judges by exactly the same tensions that you meet domestically between the legitimate bounds of judicial creativity and the rule that judges – like anybody else – are bound by the law.”
“That’s a tension which has to be resolved here as it does everywhere else. They’re fundamental rights, they’re not absolute rights.”

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