Compare UK and USA protection of rights

Compare UK and USA protection of rights

Protection of Rights: UK vs USA

Constitutional Basis

  • USA: The US has a codified constitution, the US Constitution, which outlines clear rights known as the Bill of Rights. These rights are specifically outlined and list clear protections such as freedom of speech, religion, and the right to bear arms.
  • UK: The UK has an uncodified constitution. Rights protection is layered and sourced from several documents, such as the Magna Carta, and practices referred to as constitutional conventions. Citizenship rights also come from statute law and European Union law, particularly the Human Rights Act of 1998.

Supreme Court Role

  • USA: The Supreme Court in the US has the power of judicial review_, and can declare laws unconstitutional if they infringe upon constitutional rights. This means the court has a direct impact on the protection of rights.
  • UK: The UK Supreme Court does not have the power to overturn primary legislation, but can rule on its compatibility with the Human Rights Act. If a law is deemed incompatible, it is sent back to Parliament for review, but it does not render the law void.

Impact of Political System

  • USA: In the US, the separation of powers means that the legislature, executive, and judiciary operate independently. In terms of rights protection, this allows for checks on power and takes into account the viewpoints of different institutions in interpreting and implementing rights.
  • UK: The UK operates a system of parliamentary sovereignty, where Parliament is the supreme law-making body and can alter rights. However, due to membership of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), certain rights are given additional protection.

Balancing Rights with Security

  • USA: The Patriot Act, enacted after the attacks on September 11, 2001, grants law enforcement agencies broad powers to surveil, detain, and prosecute terrorists, often criticised for its potential to infringe upon civil liberties.
  • UK: UK law has also tried to balance individual rights with national security. The Investigatory Powers Act 2016, known as the “snooper’s charter”, allows the UK intelligence community and law enforcement to legally hack and surveil citizens. Critics argue this infringes on privacy rights.

Individual vs Collective Rights

  • USA: The US puts a heavy emphasis on individual rights, as seen with the right to bear arms and freedom of speech, regardless of societal implications.
  • UK: The UK puts more emphasis on balancing individual and collective rights with societal wellbeing. For example, restrictions can be placed on freedom of speech if it incites hatred or violence.

Remember, understanding the constitutional basis, the role of the Supreme Court, the impact of the political system, how each country balances rights with security, and the difference between individual and collective rights is essential in comparing rights protection in the UK and the USA.