The right to no punishment without law explained in 2 minutes!

[Text on screen]: No Punishment Without Law . Article 7 of the Human Rights Act.

The government must ensure it is clear which actions are crimes and cannot prosecute us for a past action if it was not a crime at the time.

What does the Human Rights Act officially say?

“No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence which did not constitute a criminal offence…at the time it was committed.”

But what exactly does it mean?

Basically, you are only guilty of a crime if there was a law against it at the time. You cannot be persecuted for a crime if it was not recognised as such.

Additionally, the government has a duty to ensure all crimes are clearly stated in law so we know when it is being broken. But there are some exceptions.

Article 7 is an absolute right. This means it cannot be restricted. However, Article 7 does make an exception for crimes against humanity. This includes both war crimes and acts of genocide. Those acts remain punishable in UK courts regardless of when they were committed.

Here are three key examples of what it does for us:

1. Criminal laws can’t be too broad. (Kokkinakis case,1993)
2. A crime must be clearly defined in law. (SW case, 1996)
3. A person can be tried for war crimes committed in the past. (Kononov case, 2011)

The law must be clear for all to understand and cannot arbitrarily punish us without good reason.

Learn more about your rights at
Institutions, Justice

The right to no punishment without law explained in 2 minutes!

Published on 22 Feb 2022

This video is about Article 7 of the Human Rights Act (HRA), which is no punishment without law. This right ensures we can only be charged for a criminal offence if it is in law at that moment in time.

This video is part of a wider series showcasing the protections the HRA provides us and why they are so important in our daily lives. We’ve also curated a week of written content surrounding the proposed reform of the HRA so that you can stay informed and up to date on the latest developments.

The Human Rights Act is central to ensuring we can all live a safe and secure life. It sets out a range of principles that the government, and public bodies, must follow and uphold for all of us. If they fail to follow them, we have the ability to take our case to a UK court and, if our rights have been violated, we may be fairly compensated. The Human Rights Act has given us the ability to stand up to those in power.

But the Human Rights Act is under threat.

The government has announced plans to reform the HRA into a new British Bill of Rights, which lawyers and campaigners are concerned will shift more power in favour of the government, and weaken the protections we have available to us. We need to ensure that human rights are accessible and available for everyone, but we may risk losing those protections if the government’s reform comes into effect.

Want to learn more? Head on over to our spotlight to read more on the proposals to the HRA. You can find more videos in this HRA series in our YouTube playlist. 

Keep up to date with our videos by subscribing to our YouTube account and always getting the first viewing of any video we launch.

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook.

Follow us on Instagram.

Connect with us on LinkedIn.

Tell us how...