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An incoming Conservative government will repeal the Human Rights Act, Dominic Grieve promised his party conference last month. Sounds tough. But the reality is a little different.

As the shadow justice secretary explains, this controversial legislation would be replaced by a "British" Bill of Rights. But when? "I would like to think we could do it in the course of a parliament," Grieve tells me. 

By my reckoning, it would take the best part of five years to bring new legislation into force. In the meantime, Labour's 1998 Act will remain law. Unlike Lord Irvine, who had a carefully crafted bill ready to launch as soon as Labour came to power in 1997, the Tories' Lord Chancellor-in-waiting is in no hurry.

Grieve is aiming for a consultation paper within a year of taking office, followed a year later by a draft bill. With time for pre-legislative scrutiny, parliamentary procedures and retraining for the judges, it would be 2015 before the changes took effect. 

And what changes can we expect? Grieve suggests limiting administrative penalties and adding new rights such as trial by jury. But these pledges would be difficult to define and achieve. Administrative penalties, however unattractive, are cost-efficient. The right to jury trial is available in only a small minority of criminal cases, with important variations across the United Kingdom. 

The best pledge that the Tories could come up with was to announce that a Conservative government would "free the police, probation and prison services to name offenders where necessary in order to protect the public and prevent crime".

But the authorities can do this already, as Grieve knows perfectly well. There was no need for him to announce that "a Conservative government will change the rules for people charged with protecting the public on the front line".

As he accepts, the belief that suspects' human rights are breached by police "wanted" posters is a myth. A pamphlet published at the conference by the campaign group Liberty cited a case from 2004 in which the Court of Appeal refused to ban leaflets identifying individuals against whom anti-social behaviour orders had been made.

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