• Robert Spicer

Individual Human Rights:Extreme Examples

Extreme examples of individual human rights

In James v United Kingdom (1986), a chartered surveyor, the Sixth Duke of Westminster, a chartered accountant and a banker were trustees of the will of the Second Duke of Westminster. The Westminster family owned 2000 houses in Belgravia.

The trustees complained that their right to public property was violated by the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 which gave the right to purchase freeholds to his tenants in Belgravia. 215 properties had been enfranchised. The trustees claimed £2.5 million compensation. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the provisions of the 1967 Act were not in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights because the Act was within the limits that a national legislation has in implementing social policies. The elimination of social injustice by leasehold reform legislation was a legitimate aim and could not be characterised as unreasonable. The taking of property in pursuance of a policy calculated to enhance social justice within the community could properly be described as being “in the public interest”.

The lawyers’ fees have not been disclosed.

Another example of extreme individualism as opposed to the protection and enforcement of collective rights is the case of two English motorists, Francis and O’Halloran, who complained to the European Court of Human Rights in 2007 that their right to silence, and not to incriminate themselves, had been violated. Francis had been photographed by a speed camera driving at 47 mph in a 30 zone. O’Halloran was photographed doing 69 mph in a 40 zone on the M4. English law requires car owners to disclose the identity of drivers whose vehicles have been photographed exceeding speed limits.

O’Halloran admitted being the driver but later revoked this confession on the grounds of the right to silence and not to incriminate himself. Francis refused to state whether he had been the driver. Both were convicted and complained to the European Court of Human Rights.

That court rejected the complaints. It ruled that the protection against self-incrimination was not absolute. Drivers of motor vehicles accept responsibilities and obligations. In the United Kingdom, these obligations include informing the authorities about the identity of the driver.

Francis and O’Halloran were supported by Liberty. That organisation later accepted that its commitment of resources in this case had been a serious mistake.

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