Article 7: No punishment without law
Articles of Human Rights
Article 7 of the Human Rights Act
Article 7 means you cannot be charged with a criminal offence for an action that was not a crime when you committed it.
This means that public authorities must explain clearly what counts as a criminal offence so you know when you are breaking the law.
It is also against the law for the courts to give you a heavier punishment than was available at the time you committed an offence.
Are there any restrictions to this right?The right to no punishment without law is absolute. This means that it cannot be restricted in any way.
However, the Human Rights Act does make an exception for acts that were ‘against the general law of civilised nations’ at the time they were committed. It was this type of provision that allowed war crimes and crimes against humanity to be prosecuted following the Second World War.
What the law says
Article 7: No punishment without law. No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national law at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.
2. This Article shall not prejudice the trial and punishment of any person for any act or omission which, at the time when it was committed, was criminal according to the general principles of law recognised by civilised nations.