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1.7 Safeguarding Adults and Human Rights

Under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), everyone has a number of rights, which the Human Rights Act 1998 makes directly enforceable in the UK Courts.

The following are particularly relevant to Safeguarding Adults from Abuse.

  • Article 3 provides: 'No-one shall be subjected to torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment'. Unlike Article 8, this is an absolute right: inhuman or degrading treatment is unlawful, whatever the situation. Treatment may be degrading if it 'humiliates or debases an individual showing a lack of respect for, or diminishing his or her human dignity or arouses feelings of fear, anguish or inferiority capable of breaking an individual's moral and physical resistance';
  • Article 6 entitles everyone to a 'fair hearing' when a decision is made about their civil rights and obligations. This includes the right to be consulted before decisions are made, and to be given reasons for decisions. Under Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998, it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with any right under the European Convention. A public authority includes any local authority, the police and Crown Prosecution Service, and any person "exercising a public function";
  • Article 8 ECHR provides: 'Everyone has the right to respect for (their) private and family life, (their) home and correspondence'. Public authorities may only interfere with this right where this is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of:
    • Public safety;
    • The prevention of disorder or crime;
    • The protection of health or morals; or
    • The protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The interference by public authorities must be proportionate to the risk or other reason for acting.

  • Article 14 prohibits discrimination on any ground in the way that people access their rights under the Convention;
  • Duty to protect: Public authorities have a proactive duty towards Adults at Risk to take "reasonable steps to prevent ill-treatment of which the authorities had or ought to have had knowledge.' Public authorities may be considered to be responsible for the Harm and therefore will be in breach of Article 3 even where they have merely failed to prevent degrading treatment, rather than caused it.┬áPeople whose disabilities make them critically dependent on the help of others are entitled to enhanced protection.