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.

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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.