A v The United Kingdom

16.20In 2002, the European Court of Human Rights considered a case which related to a central purpose of article IX of the Bill of Rights, namely to prevent Members' speeches being subject to actions for defamation. A Member referred in a critical manner to a named constituent in the course of debate, and the constituent appealed to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that the parliamentary privilege of freedom of speech violated article 6 of the European Convention, namely that ‘In the determination of his civil rights and obligations … everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing … by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law’, and article 8, on respect for private and family life except as necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. The court did not decide whether article 6 was applicable (which turned on whether parliamentary privilege removed the entitlement to a hearing rather than the civil right not to be defamed), on the grounds that the issues would be the same as under article 8. However, the court ruled, by a majority, that parliamentary privilege did not impose a disproportionate restriction on the right of access to a court, or on respect for private and family life, and that articles 6 and 8 were accordingly not violated.1

Footnotes

  1. 1. A v United Kingdom (Application 35373/97) (2002) 36 EHRR 917, ECtHR. See also Malcolm Jack ‘A v The UK in the European Court of Human Rights [2002]’ The Table 73 (2003), pp 31–36.