Myth 9: The Human Rights Act would be a rogues charter that protects terrorists and criminals

The Myth: By establishing a Human Rights Act, the rights of criminals and terrorists will be promoted. The people who least deserve human rights will benefit from them.

The reality:  Criminals and suspected criminals are most likely to make claims regarding the right to a fair trial, or procedural rights concerning arrest and bail, some of which are already protected by the common law in Australia.  They may also make claims in respect of their right to humane treatment while in custody.  We doubt many of the "rogues' charter" critics are seriously arguing that criminals or suspected criminals should be subjected to arbitrary (as opposed to justified) arrest, unfair trial, or inhumane treatment.

When suspected criminals' human rights are not respected, miscarriages of justice often follow. Consider, for example, the forced confessions and wrongful convictions of the terrorist suspects known as the "Guildford 4" and "Birmingham 6" in the UK, and the farcical detention, charge, and deportation from Australia of Dr Mohammad Haneef in 2007.  The rights which protect criminals and criminal suspects in fact protect us all. They also promote good policing practices, helping to minimize the maltreatment of suspects and the arrest or conviction of innocents.

Furthermore, an Australian Human Rights Act would include a "limitation" clause allowing human rights to be limited when it is justified to do so, for example when it is necessary to protect public order or national security.

For a longer discussion of the arguments regarding the Human Rights Act protecting criminals and terrorists, see this section of the Castan Centre's submission to the National Human Rights Consultation.