HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1998: A STATISTICAL UPDATE
This paper provides a statistical update of
the impact of the Human Rights Act on the court system in the
three months since its implementation on 2 October 2000. Where
more up to date information is available, that has been used.
The restructuring of the Administrative Court
helped to absorb the impact of the Act and to reduce the number
of outstanding cases from 2,830 on 31 January 2000 to 1,861 outstanding
on 31 January 2001.
The number of applications for judicial review
increased from 1,616 between 2 October 1999 and 31 January 2000
to 1,738 between 2 October 2000 and 31 January 2001. This increase
is mostly attributable to changes in immigration and asylum procedures.
303 or 17 per cent of the cases lodged after
implementation raised a human rights issue. The vast majority
of those cases would have been lodged notwithstanding the implementation
of the Act.
There have been less than a dozen issues that
could be termed "new".
The number of cases received fell from 2,643
between 2 October 1999 and 31 January 2000 to 2,491 between 2
October 2000 and 31 January 2001.
277 of those 2,491 cases contained human rights
The number of cases outstanding fell from 2,840
on 31 January 2000 to 2,080 on 31 January 2001.
The average sitting time per case in the same
period fell by five minutes. However, in relation to cases which
raise important or overarching points of principle in relation
to human rights, hearing times have been slightly longer. This
extra time is being used in an effort to set definitive precedents
which can be followed by the lower courts and thus save time overall.
For example, a complex sentence appeal, which may ordinarily have
been listed for 40 minutes prior to the implementation of the
Act, may now (if it contains an important human rights ground)
be listed for up to an hour and a quarter.
The number of appeals and applications filed
increased from 1,121 between October to December 1999 to 1,260
between October to December 2000. Among the factors that are likely
to have contributed to this rise is an increase in asylum appeals
and a rise in the number of applications disposed of.
The number of outstanding applications and appeals
fell, however, in comparison to the previous year.
|Last quarter 1999-2000
||Last Quarter 2000-01|
|Outstanding Appeals at 2 Oct, Nov, Dec
||1070, 1022, 960||900, 976, 842
|Outstanding Applications||1158, 1122, 1111
||1022, 976, 908|
|Appeal hearing times increased very slightly in comparison to the previous year.
|Average duration of days||0.733 days
We know of only two cases since October, which were solely
dependent on human rights issues. The latest position is that
there are 93 cases containing human rights grounds on the live
schedule of the Court of Appeal Civil Division.
The emerging trend is that litigants are adding HRA points
to many existing appeals with many instances of Counsel tacking
HRA issues onto skeleton arguments in existing cases.
Queens Bench Division
There were 49 cases citing human rights issues up to 2 January
There have been no cases wholly reliant on a human rights
There were nine cases citing human rights issues up to 2
There have been no cases wholly reliant on a human rights
The number of cases listed with a time estimate of half a
day or more fell to 300 between October to December 2000 compared
with the 317 listed between October to December 1999.
Of those 300 cases, 21 cited human rights issues.
One case depended wholly on the Human Rights Act.
There has been only a negligible impact on hearing times.
Between October to December 2000, less than 0.5 per cent
of county court cases have involved human rights points.
In the same period 76 claims for damages were issued in the
county courts and High Court relying wholly on the Human Rights
Act. In the same period a total of some 467,000 civil claims were
Average hearing times for small claims were 69 minutes in
the period compared with 61 minutes in the same period for 1999.
Average hearing times for trials increased from three hours 35
minutes in the last quarter of 1999 to three hours 44 minutes
in the last quarter of 2000. However, these increases are probably
more the consequence of the recent reforms in the civil courts
than the Human Rights Act.
In the three months after implementation, there were 168
occasions on which Human Rights Act issues were raised. This was
less than half on one per cent of the cases heard by the Crown
Comparative figures show that the number of outstanding committals
for trial fell from 24,624 on 31 December 1999 to 22,946 on 31
Average hearing times for the quarter were 4.85 hours compared
with 4.83 hours in the same period in 1999.
Between October and December 2000, almost two thirds of Magistrates'
Courts Committees (MCCs) in England and Wales (46 of the 73) had
cases that dealt with human rights points. However, there were
fewer cases as the quarter went on with 37 MCCs having Human Rights
Act activity to report in October, 23 in November and seven in
In total 227 points relating to the Human Rights Act were
made in 161 hearings involving 290 defendants/applicants although
not all these defendants/applicants were directly affected.
87 per cent of the hearings in which the Human Rights Act
was raised were criminal and in a majority of those cases it was
Article 6 that was cited. Articles 5 and 8 were the next most
Article 6 was also most commonly referred to in non-criminal
cases but with a higher proportion of points raised relying on
articles 5 and 8 than in criminal cases.
Throughput in the Magistrates' Courts (measured by units
of weighted caseload per sitting hour) was 9.96 units per sitting
hour in October to December 2000 compared to 10.52 in the equivalent
quarter in 1999. This reflects a small decrease in caseload disposed
of and a small increase in sitting hours but both well within
the overall capacity of the courts.
This suggests that there has been some impact as magistrates,
in particular, adjust to the requirement to give reasons. However,
feedback from Magistrates' Courts Committees, the small number
of substantive points mentioned in reasons, together with the
known volatility of this measure of throughput when shown on a
quarterly basis, suggest that this could well be attributable
in part to other factors unrelated to implementation of the Act.
So far, the Human Rights Act has had no significant impact
on the workload or disposal rates of LCD's Tribunals. The greatest
impact has been in the Immigration Appellate Authority where the
Act has been cited in 1,053 appeals, equivalent to 5.4 per cent
of cases. However, human rights issues were the primary reason
for the appeal in only 11 of these cases.
There are a number of indicators, which give a picture as
to the impact of the Act. All these, together with the Commission's
direct and anecdotal experience both at Head Office and in the
Regional Office, show that the Human Rights Act is having only
a minor impact so far on the number of certificates granted.
If the Act were having a significant impact on the number
of cases funded, it would be demonstrated most clearly in the
figures for the number of judicial review certificates issued.
Between 1 October and 31 December 2000, 1,256 Community Legal
Service Certificates were issued for judicial review, an increase
of 10 per cent on the 1142 issued between 1 October and 31 December
In the three months following implementation, 36 cases were
recorded that raised "significant human rights issues",
21 of which were judicial reviews. This is a small number compared
to the total number of certificates issued.
It is not possible to predict the impact of the Human Rights
Act on Fund expenditure at this stage.
Lord Chancellor's Department