Will that defence stand?

The Handbook of Human Rights Law
February 9, 2007

The proliferation of human rights norms and principles is one of the most distinctive features of modern legal systems, and few would doubt the value of a clear exposition of how such principles are supplanted on to domestic law. Michael Arnheim's Handbook of Human Rights Law will be a popular reference for those wishing to know how UK courts have deployed the Human Rights Act 1998 when confronted with politically controversial and morally exacting issues.

Among the many themes explored in a question-and-answer format that will appeal to students are assisted suicide; rights to housing and financial assistance of asylum seeker; and press freedom versus privacy.

The first three of the book's 12 chapters place the 1998 Act within the international framework of human rights norms. The question of whether a higher system of laws was established with the passage of the Act permeates the work. Chapters 4 to 12 draw on some well-known cases in an effort to demonstrate how rights litigation can advance and obstruct human goals.

While this accessible guide is likely to find its way into the libraries of students, academics, practitioners and interested lay persons, readers may be irritated by the author's thinly veiled impatience with what he sees as the undeserving victories of "special interest groups" - a category in which "convicted criminals" loom large. It is when discussing such groups that Arnheim often sacrifices intellectual rigour for bland and populist argumentation. His accounts of the confidentiality litigation relating to the killers of James Bulger and of Tony Martin's imprisonment for manslaughter are indicative of this fault. The book also suffers from some injudicious editing that has allowed the verbatim repetition of significant portions of the argument.

Patricia Tuitt is reader in law, School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London.

The Handbook of Human Rights Law: An Accessible Approach to the Issues and Principles

Author - Michael Arnheim
Publisher - Kogan Page
Pages - 304
Price - £19.99
ISBN - 0 7494 4480 0

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