The Human Rights Inquiry was undertaken by the Commission in line with our powers under section 16 of the Equality Act 2006. The inquiry was announced on 6 March 2008, launched in April of that year and chaired by Dame Nuala O’Loan.

Purpose of the inquiry

For the Commission, this inquiry represented the starting point for our remit on human rights.  Our goals for this work were to:

  • promote understanding of the importance of human rights
  • encourage good practice in relation to human rights
  • promote awareness, understanding and protection of human rights, and
  • encourage public authorities to comply with the Human Rights Act (section 9 of the Equality Act).

When the Human Rights Act was introduced the Government said it would lead to a cultural change within public services, representing the ethical bottom line and a ‘fairness guarantee for all citizens’. It gave citizens the ability to assert their human rights in the courts of England and Wales.

The Act is routed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed in 1948. The video below is an interview with Archie Mackenzie the British Diplomat who represented Britain in the negotiations, in his interview he talks about the principles of fairness that were behind the Declaration.


Through the inquiry we now have:

  • a reliable set of findings about the state of human rights in Britain, and
  • recommendations to move the human rights agenda forward.

Gathering evidence

We gathered evidence for the inquiry using a number of methods. We called for evidence from individuals, organisations and service providers, based on their experiences, both positive and negative.  We commissioned research on specific areas that we had identified would help with the inquiry. We also held a series of inquiry panels to hear evidence from invited witnesses.

Find out more about the call for evidence
Find out more about the research projects

Terms of reference

When we launched the inquiry the first thing we did was to consult people about the terms of reference for this inquiry. We had a good response to the consultation and the terms of reference were then finalised.

Read about the terms of reference, the issues raised through consultation and how we planned to address these issues.

How was the inquiry be carried out?

We appointed Dame Nuala O'Loan to chair the inquiry. She was formerly Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland, with experience of leading other investigations. Find out more about Dame Nuala O'Loan.

Francesca Klug was the lead commissioner representing the Commission.  Sir Bert Massie and Neil Wooding also joined the inquiry as commissioners, to guide the inquiry process alongsite Nuala and Francesca

The inquiry was restricted to England and Wales. Further to our consultation with the Scottish Human Rights Commission, it was decided that the timescale of the Human Rights Inquiry was too tight to include Scotland, but they are considering the possibility of parallel work in the future.

The inquiry was to investigate:

  • public attitudes to the Human Rights Act
  • how the Human Rights Act is working
  • how it is used by public authorities and other organisations where appropriate.

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