The Ministry of Justice has this week (Tuesday) published an easy read and an audio version of the Human Rights Act Consultation after campaigners demanded accessible versions.
Learning Disability England along with 200 people and organisations wrote to the government urging it to extend the consultation deadline to make sure people with learning disabilities can take part as equals. It has now been extended by six weeks for those that ask for it.
Campaigners said that the Justice Secretary was acting unlawfully by not producing an adequate “Easy Read” version of the Consultation and by not extending the Consultation period to allow people who use this version sufficient time to respond.
They said that the government is required under the Equality Act 2010 to make “reasonable adjustments” to allow people to participate in consultations on matters that will affect them and they did not believe they had done this.
What is the Human Rights Act Consultation?
The government released a Consultation Paper in December 2021 setting out its plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. It asked 29 questions to gather people’s views on the plans and gave the public 12 weeks to respond, with the consultation due to end on 08 March 2022.
However campaigners said that the consultation paper, which is 123-pages long, was written in confusing and technical language and the government did not release an Easy Read version.
An “Easy Read” document is one which presents text in an understandable way and was created to help people with learning disabilities access information. Instead, the government released a “word-only Easy Read version” of the Consultation Paper on 24February 2022. This gives people who use this version just 12 days to respond.
Courtney, a member of Pembrokeshire People First Campaigns Group, said: “It’s disgusting that they have only given us seven days to look at this, but given other people twelve weeks. It’s Gobbledygook to me.”
The campaigners believed that by giving people who need an Easy Ready version of the Consultation less time to respond amounted to discrimination.
According to the Law Society, the consultation is seeking views on a wide range of topics, including:
The duties on courts to take account of case law from the European Court of Human Rights and to interpret legislation compatibly with Convention rights
Extending the use of declarations of incompatibility to secondary legislation and introducing suspended and prospective quashing orders in human rights claims
Introducing a permission stage for human rights claims
When public authorities are held accountable for human rights violations
Restricting when human rights apply in deportation cases
How rights are balanced against each other, such as freedom of expression and privacy
Extraterritorial application of human rights
The consultation was open until 8 March 2022, with an extension available for those requiring easy read or audio versions until 19 April 2022.