Dr Michael Arnheim, Barrister at Law , Sometime Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, and author of A Practical Guide to your Human Rights and Civil Liberties tells us what we have the right to in today's society- some of which might have passed you by.
Post-Brexit, the UK is entering a new phase in its relationship with Europe and it’s now more important than ever for people to know their rights and where they stand in relation to the ruling powers.
Here are some rights to which all British citizens are currently entitled to, but might not necessarily be aware of.
THE RIGHT TO PICK YOUR NOSE IN PUBLIC
It’s an ugly and unhygienic habit, but as it is not specifically prohibited by law, you do have a right to do it! And the same goes for anything else that is not expressly forbidden by law. The problem is that the law is often less than clear. If you’re hauled up for breaking the law in some way, make sure this can be proved to the hilt.
YOUR RIGHT TO SECURITY
It’s the chief function of government to keep the country safe. Yet, worryingly, there are an estimated 2,000 “extremists” at large in the UK who cannot be deported. The individual rights of a member of these groups often trump national security and actually detract from your human rights as a law-abiding citizen.
YOUR RIGHT TO BE NAKED IN PUBLIC
Yes, you can stroll around without any clothes on if you like. That is, unless your conduct is witnessed by somebody “likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby”. But don’t try it in Scotland!
YOUR RIGHT TO TURF OUT THE GOVERNMENT
This is the democratic right par excellence. But, like so many other rights, it is more apparent than real. The first-past‐the post electoral system means that a party could theoretically poll 40 per cent of the vote in every constituency in the country and still not win a single seat. That is an extreme hypothetical position, but the reality is not a lot better. So, for example, in the 2015 election UKIP received 12.7 per cent of the vote in the country at large — and won one seat out of 650. The Scottish National Party, on the other hand, with 4.7 per cent of the total vote, ended up with 56 members of parliament.
YOUR RIGHT TO COME DIRECT TO A BARRISTER
Yes, it’s true. You don’t need to pay two lawyers when one can do it all. Though it’s been possible since 2004, surprisingly few people know about it. (I have to declare an interest here, being an early agitator for this right and one of the first barristers on the direct access register).
- A Practical Guide to your Human Rights and Civil Liberties by Dr Michael Arnheim (Straightforward Publishing) is out now, priced £10.99. Visit www.straightforwardco.co.uk