A survey by legal publishers Sweet & Maxwell has found that in the twelve months to October 2009 there was a rise of 90 per cent in claims brought against the Government by businesses, firms and corporations on Human Rights Act
Although these disputes remain small in number (nineteen), the types of challenges made often relate to deprivation of property under the Act, such as the case brought on behalf of shareholders after the nationalisation of Northern Rock. Approximately five per cent of all tax claims against HM Revenue and Customs rely on the Act. Other HRA claims have increased for the first time in seven years, partially as a result of a rise in deportation, immigration and asylum claims, which have risen by a third in the last year.
There has also been a rise in the use of the Act by celebrities seeking to block publication of material they deem to be potentially damaging to their reputation. There are fears that this succession of cases has begun to create a 'privacy law'.
The results of the survey come at a time when, in an election year, both major political parties are setting out what they want to do to prevent frivolous claims under the HRA and to prevent claimants from gaining financially through abuse of the Act.
Any significant changes by the current or a future government would still have to comply with European law, however. The introduction of provisions that contradict EU legislation would be likely to increase claims further and would be declared incompatible by the European courts.