The Human Rights Act and police negligence in rape investigations

By Emma Husband, Staff Writer

The new government in the UK has vowed to get rid of the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. This has been met with anger by many campaigners who believe that there has been a misrepresentation of the act in much of the media, causing a fundamental misunderstanding of its purpose.

The act in its current form serves to protect fundamental human rights and enables us to challenge authorities if they have been breached. It incorporates the rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, without having to take cases to Strasbourg.

While it has been demonised by a lot of right wing media outlets, the act has played, and could continue to play, a vital role in challenging police negligence, particularly in rape cases. Recently, a rape survivor was handed compensation after the police failed to investigate her case and even arrested her for lying because of their inadequate investigative practices. Her appeal and the subsequent prosecution of the perpetrator was only possible because of the Human Rights Act.

Police negligence in investigating rape cases has been widely known for years, but it is only recently, with high profile cases saturating the media, that the full extent of their failings in relation to rape cases has come to light.

Better police investigation and increased understanding of the different kinds of rapes needs to be a priority for the police. Education around how gender inequalities play out, not just in the act of rape but our reaction towards it, is also desperately needed within the police and wider society.

In the meantime, the Human Rights Act is a vital tool for survivors of rape who have been affected by police negligence. The repeal of this act by the government would be a further blow to the already shameful state of investigation and prosecution in cases of rape.