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R v Home Sec, ex parte Simms

[1999] 3 All ER 400

Case summary last updated at 07/01/2020 15:01 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case R v Home Sec, ex parte Simms

Some journalists believed that the prisoners were wrongly convicted and wanted to interview them to publish a story on their conviction. The sec. or state imposed a ban on journalists interviewing prisoners except insofar as they agreed not to use the information professionally. The prisoners argued that the restriction infringed their right of free speech. HL held that this was an infringement of the prisoners’ rights of free speech. Any legislation affecting fundamental human rights was presumed to be subject to those rights (presumed parliamentary intention), unless explicitly stating that it was intended to breach those rights. Therefore the ban made by the sec of state, under legislation which did not explicitly permit an interference with freedom of speech, was unlawful. 
 
Lord Hoffmann: “Fundamental rights cannot be overridden by general or ambiguous words. This is because there is too great a risk that the full implications of their unqualified meaning may have passed unnoticed in the democratic process. In the absence of express language or necessary implication to the contrary, the courts therefore presume that even the most general words were intended to be subject to the basic rights of the individual.” He says that s.3 of HRA will give legislative effect to the “legality principle” i.e. that statutes not explicitly derogating from human rights will be presumed to be subject to them. 

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