Government’s Conversion Therapy Bill ‘breaches Human Rights Act’, says leading QC

Graham Robson June 13, 2022

Top public law and human rights barrister Dan Squires QC, of Matrix Chambers, has advised that the Government’s Conversion Therapy Bill, if enacted in its current form, would likely be open to legal challenge on the grounds that it is incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

The advice, which is being published ahead of the debate on the controversial Bill in Parliament in June concludes that the legislation, which seeks to protect people from conversion therapy that relates to their sexual orientation, but not their gender identity, constitutes a breach of the Human Rights Act.

Article 8 of the Act protects each person’s right to a private life, including their sexuality and gender identity. And Article 14 requires the Government to make sure human rights protections are applied fairly to different groups. According to Dan Squires QC, the proposed Bill discriminates against trans people by excluding them from its protections, without giving any proper justification why.

The Government’s watered down ban on conversion therapy has been met with a fierce backlash, including from its own backbenchers and a petition calling for trans people to be included has been signed by 145,000 people.

In 2018, Theresa May promised to outlaw conversion therapy, including for transgender people, a commitment that was then repeated under Boris Johnson’s Government, which is now rowing back on its promises to the LGBTQ+ community.

Some have suggested that excluding trans people from these protections could be justified by concerns that they would make legitimate talking therapies impossible. However, the advice from Dan Squires QC does not find any merit in this. It concludes if it’s possible to distinguish between unacceptable treatment and legitimate therapy for those struggling with their sexual orientation, then there’s no reason why the same can’t be done for those struggling with their gender identity.

Jo Maugham, Director of Good Law Project, which commissioned the independent legal advice, said: “The advice is clear that the Government must return to its original proposals, which included protection for the trans community, or risk legal challenge. The Government is playing culture wars and it’s one of our society’s most vulnerable groups that is being used as collateral.”

To read the full legal opinion, CLICK HERE