Any person including a serving prisoner who believes that any right he has under the Convention has been contravened will be able to bring a case before a court in the United Kingdom, instead of before the European Court of Human Rights (based in Strasbourg). In addition, the Human Rights Act 1998 imposes a duty on the Government to ensure that both primary and subordinate legislation (i.e., Acts of Parliament and statutory instruments made under such Acts) is compatible with the Convention and requires public authorities to act in a manner which is compatible with the Convention.
S.6 of the Act makes it unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.
The term "act" includes a failure to act, but does not include a failure to introduce a proposal for legislation or to make any primary legislation or remedial order. In addition, s.6 does not apply to an act if, as a result of a provision of any Act of Parliament, the authority could not have acted differently or if the authority was simply giving effect to provisions of a statutory instrument which could not have been interpreted or given effect to in any other way.
Home Office guidance (see below) defines the term "public authority" to include-
(a) government departments and local authorities, health authorities and trusts;
(b) the armed forces and the police;
(c) courts and tribunals;
(d) any person or organisation which carries out some function of a public nature, but only in relation to those public functions.
In other words, prisons and prison staff must comply with the Act and failure to do so is unlawful. As we said, you do have a lot of rights. What you need is for us to tell you what they are and then to enforce them for you!
A person who claims that a public authority has contravened s.6 and who is a victim of that contravention may bring proceedings against that authority in an appropriate court or tribunal, or may rely on the Convention right concerned in any legal proceedings (including an appeal against the decision of a court or tribunal) (s.7). Any such proceedings must be brought within one year of the date on which the act complained of took place, or within such longer period as the court or tribunal considers fair having regard to all the circumstances.
Where a court finds that any act of a public authority is, or would be, a contravention of s.6, it may grant such relief or remedy, or make such order, as it considers just and appropriate. Damages may be awarded by a court which has power to award damages (or to order the payment of compensation) in civil proceedings, but no award of damages is to be made unless, taking account of all the circumstances of the case, the court is satisfied that an award is necessary to give just satisfaction to the person in whose favour it is made (s.8). Proceedings under s.7 in respect of a judicial act may only be brought (s.9)-
(a) by exercising a right of appeal;
(b) on an application for judicial review; or
(c) in such other form as may be prescribed.
In Scotland, where proceedings cannot be brought under (a) or (b) then, for the purposes of (c), the Court of Session is prescribed as the appropriate forum for proceedings (Human Rights Act 1998 (Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Rules 2000, r.4).
The Home Office Guidance: A New Era of Rights and Responsibilities-Core Guidance For Public Authorities explains the 1998 Act and gives examples of its effect on public authorities.