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An Insight into Human Rights Law – Jack Hussey, St. Johns School Leatherhead

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On the 16th November, pupils at St. Johns School were lucky enough to receive a visit from renowned human rights lawyer, Paul Conrathe. Currently a senior consultant solicitor at Sinclairs Law, Mr. Conrathe delivered a series of careers workshops, politics lessons and interviews to pupils. With a career founded upon fighting for justice for those with disabilities, Mr. Conrathe is a leader and pioneer in the field of human rights law. In an area constantly permeated with controversy, Mr. Conrathe’s cases have been some of the most poignant in terms of their political and social impact. Aspiring from early on not to be a lawyer complicit with the stereotype of one whom makes the rich richer, but one whom represents the everyday person, Mr. Conrathe was a truly insightful lens into the intense world of human rights law.


When asked why he chose to pursue a career in the branch of human rights law, Mr Conrathe revealed that such a pursuit stemmed from a desire to encourage laws that heal the fractures which can often be inflicted by a society which implements bad regulations. Paul noted that, “human rights is concerned with the abuse of power by the state and when we have bad laws, or bad policies, bad guidance or bad decisions by public bodies, that ultimately creates a more fractured, broken and dysfunctional society. Whereas I think laws that value the individual and affirm life should lead to human flourishing.”



In answer to a question, the purpose of which was to try and gain an understanding – from a position of ignorance – regarding the root of human rights legislation in the UK, Mr Conrathe commented that the rights listed in the European Convention on Human Rights, “are incorporated into our domestic law through the Human Rights Act,” and therefore, “we have to give regard to, and follow, the cases and the law that comes out of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

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When shifting the conversation away from human rights law itself and towards the cases in which Mr. Conrathe has been directly involved, he revealed that the Bell Vs Tavistock and Portman NHS Clinic has been the case that has stood out in his career so far. A particular point of interest in this discussion was Mr. Conrathe’s statement that this was a case that he, “ultimately lost, but practically won”. In expansion of this statement, regarding the case which reverberated around mainstream media that saw Kiera Bell and one other sue the NHS clinic due to their use of puberty blockers, Mr. Conrathe stated that, “the effect of the case, which became global in terms of its publicity, has been huge even to this day.” Mr. Conrathe went on to reveal, “The National Health Service changed its guidance on the reversibility of puberty blockers during the litigation and they commissioned Dr Hilary Cass to undertake an independent review of the treatment for children with gender dysphoria during the litigation.” Mr, Conrathe also went on to emphasise the worldwide impact of this case, noting that, “Keira’s case has not only had huge impact in this country, in a more cautious approach to children with gender dysphoria, but also has gone around the world.” What was particularly compelling about his statement was that it highlighted that success blossomed despite a legal loss, “all of these things really underlined the concerns that we were expressing in that case and have led to I think a more cautious approach to treating children with gender dysphoria.” It is now known that the Tavistock clinic is going to be shut down.

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One of the many controversies endured by Mr. Conrathe, given the nature of the cases he takes on, was this decision by the Court of Appeal to overturn the High Court ruling, which had initially won Mr. Conrathe the case. In response to whether he felt that this ruling was a miscarriage of justice, Mr. Conrathe stated, “I think it was an abdication of responsibility to protect children.”


This was ultimately the preface to the final question of the interview, “In your opinion, is human rights legislation comprehensive enough in the UK, or does the law need to go further to protect people?” Whilst this question was very difficult to answer, as recognised by Mr. Conrathe, “I don’t know the answer to that, that is such a huge question,” he did state, “what I think that I would say is that the issue within my world of the trans debate, where people would contend that the law needs to go further, it needs to be easier to identify as the opposite sex and have legal rights accruing. It carries with it though a diminution of the right of others, the rights of women in particular, potentially with female only spaces. So, I think that there are concerns for me that an extension of trans rights will potentially mean a diminution of the sex-based rights of women.” This illusion to a potential conflict between the rights of a transgender person and the rights of a woman is increasingly prominent given the increasing emergence of transgender rights and awareness in the UK.

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It will be captivating to see if his current involvement in a potential challenge against the Secretary of State for trade regarding the import of cotton from Xingjang and the human slavery of the Uyghur Muslims, will similarly have such a renowned impact.


This interview with Mr.Conrathe was just one aspect of his visit to St. Johns on Wednesday, and what was clear from his visit was that the world of human rights is an ever-evolving field. So, will the development of artificial intelligence and the potential infringement on our freedoms be the next flash point? Or will it be the regulation of free speech on social media? These were just a few questions raised by pupils with an interest in the field. Although the future of human rights isn’t certain, what is certain is that the evolution of the law to build a better society will require motivated students with a finger on the pulse of moral, social and cultural issues; something which Paul has set the example for.

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