John Eldridge reviews 'On Fantasy Island: Britain, Europe and Human Rights' by Conor Gearty

John Eldridge reviews 'On Fantasy Island: Britain, Europe and Human Rights' by Conor Gearty

On Fantasy Island: Britain, Europe and Human Rights

by Conor Gearty

Oxford University Press $38.95 hb, 256 pp, 9780198787631

Although easy to miss amid the commotion of Brexit, Britain’s Human Rights Act (1998) is locked in a fight for its life. Besieged by a hostile press and beholden to a government that has pledged its repeal and replacement, its days are almost certainly numbered. It is against this fraught backdrop that Conor Gearty’s On Fantasy Island: Britain, Europe and human rights comes to the Act’s defence. In a spirited and wide-ranging rejoinder to its critics, Gearty restates the case for the Human Rights Act and explodes the myths that have fuelled its unpopularity.

Exploded too are the stifling conventions of legal writing. In opening with a clear-eyed account of the injustices sanctioned by the courts prior to the Human Rights Act, Gearty takes aim against a lecture delivered by John Finnis, emeritus professor at the University of Oxford and one of the storied eminences of modern jurisprudence. Gearty’s gently irreverent treatment of Finnis sets the tone for what is an energetic, conversational foray into law and politics, unmarked by the heavy-handed deference to which lawyers are too often prone.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in April 2017, no. 390
John Eldridge

John Eldridge

John Eldridge is a Lecturer at Sydney Law School, University of Sydney. He has worked in the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the University of New South Wales Faculty of Law. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, New Matilda, The Drum, and Crikey.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.