The Commission looking at a Bill of Rights (and Responsibilities) for the UK recently published an interim report - Law and Lawyers - "Commission for a British Bill of Rights: interim recommendation and other ideas" - 12th September. It is interesting to note that there is already a Bill of Rights.
Our older Bill of Rights:
The Bill of Rights 1688 was enacted after the "Glorious Revolution" which culminated in the departure of James II (VII of Scotland). Much of this Bill of Rights was concerned with (a) the rights of Parliament versus the rights of the Crown and (b) addressing certain problems (e.g. relating to taxation). Thus, as one example, the Crown could no longer dispense with laws without the consent of Parliament
"That the pretended Power of Suspending of Laws or the Execution of Laws by Regall Authority without Consent of Parlyament is illegall."
Lawyers could, no doubt, have a field day on the interpretation of this article alone. Certainly, whatever the position prior to the Bill of Rights, the King could no longer suspend a law without the consent of Parliament. For the background to this Article see - Parliament "The Glorious Revolution"; Case of Godden v Hales 1686; Case of the Seven Bishops 1688.
However, some of the provisions gave individuals some vaguely phrased rights - e.g. the statements that "excessive bail" should not be required nor "cruell and unusuall punishments inflicted." (See here for explanation of "cruel and unusual punishment" in the context of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the USA).
However one looks at this document - time-honoured as it is with history - it is not a suitable modern statement defining the rights of either the Crown, Parliament or the individual. It should be repealed and its essential provisions clarified and built into a modern formal enactment. If the work of the Commission on a Bill of Rights comes to fruition, there could be an opportunity to do this.
Rights and their protection in some Commonwealth jurisdictions::
A number of other Commonwealth jurisdictions already have enactments dealing with the rights and responsibilities. In 1982, the UK Parliament enacted the Canada Act which provided for a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter has become part of the Canadian Constitution. For breaches of the Charter, the Canadian courts are empowered to give any remedy considered to be appropriate and just in the circumstances. The Canada Act 1982 also stated:
No Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the Constitution Act, 1982 comes into force shall extend to Canada as part of its law.
Students of constitutional law will