Legal skills and debates in Scotland
Legal skills and debates in Scotland

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Legal skills and debates in Scotland

3.3  Balancing rights

Within the ideas of rights and fundamental freedoms is also the idea of responsibilities. It is the responsibility of all a state’s citizens to recognise the rights of others. This leads to the question, if everyone has a number of recognised rights, does this mean that everyone is entitled to enforce those rights? You will explore this in Activity 2.

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Figure 5  Rights in the ECHR

Activity 2 Balancing rights

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Activity 2 demonstrates that there can be conflicts between different individuals’ rights. Other examples include the powers of social workers to intervene in the lives of others against their will, in the interest of individual well-being in some extreme circumstances, for example taking a child into care. This action necessarily compromises one person’s right to a private and family life, and interferes with that right.

The necessity to balance rights in certain circumstances is recognised in the ECHR. It recognises the limited nature of some rights and the need to balance them against the rights and freedoms of others. For example, the right to express views publicly may need to be balanced with another person’s right to a private life. The rights of someone accused of a crime to question witnesses may need to be balanced against the rights of the victim and vulnerable witnesses, such as children. The ECHR also recognises that the system of respecting rights works best when there is a recognition that rights and responsibilities go together. If individuals recognise this and act responsibly towards others and the wider community, then a system of rights can work effectively.

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