Your right to a fair trial

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

In the UK, human rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998. The Act gives effect to the human rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 6 - the right to a fair trial is one the rights protected by the Human Rights Act.

Read this page to find out more about what this right means under the Human Rights Act.

What are your rights under article 6?

Article 6 protects your right to a fair trial. It also ensures you have access to the courts and gives you the right to bring a civil case.

Article 6 doesn’t give you an automatic right to free legal representation in civil cases. But if your case is too complex for you to represent yourself properly, there may be a breach of article 6 if you don’t get help with legal costs .

When is a trial fair?

A fair trial means you have the right to a hearing which is:

  • fair

  • public

  • heard by an independent and impartial court or tribunal

  • heard within a reasonable time.

If you’re going to court, this means you have the right to – for example:

  • present your case before a decision is made

  • see your opponent’s documents and evidence

  • be given reasons for the decision

  • have your case heard without excessive delays.

What kind of hearings or proceedings are covered by article 6 ?

Article 6 covers both criminal and civil proceedings. Criminal and civil proceedings have a different meaning under the Human Rights Act than under UK law.

Under the Human Rights Act, criminal proceedings include:

  • when you’re being prosecuted for a criminal offence

  • other proceedings which aren’t normally considered criminal in the UK - for example, court proceedings because you’ve not paid your council tax or for contempt of court.

Civil proceedings include things like employment disputes, planning decisions, contract disputes and family or property disputes.

Article 6 applies to hearings which take place in a court, like criminal trials and civil court cases. It also applies to some proceedings and decision making processes outside of the court - for example, disciplinary hearings and planning proceedings.

Additional rights in criminal proceedings

If you’re involved in criminal proceedings you have more rights under article 6, including:

  • the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty – this means it’s the prosecution who must prove you're guilty

  • the right to know why you’re being prosecuted in a language you understand and the right to a free interpreter in court if you can’t understand the language used

  • the right to defend yourself and the right to legal aid if you can’t afford legal representation

  • the right to be in court during the trial

  • the right not to say anything that may incriminate you.

Next steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

The EASS helpline can provide advice and information on human rights and discrimination issues.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at

Scottish Human Rights Commission

You can find more information on human rights on the website of the Scottish Human Rights Commission at