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1 A principle of European Union law requiring that action taken by the EU does not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the EC Treaty. Originally developed by the European Court of Justice as a general principle of EC law, it is now incorporated into Article 5 of the EC Treaty, together with subsidiarity. It is a requirement for validity of EU legislation and breach of the principle of proportionality can thus be used as a ground for judicial review of acts of the EU institutions under Article 230 of the Treaty. In order to be proportionate, action must be appropriate, necessary, and not impose an excessive burden on those affected by it (Case C-84/94 UK v Council [1996] ECR I-5755).

2 A central provision of the European Convention on Human Rights. It applies particularly to the qualified rights and where the expression “necessary in a democratic society” is contained within the article. Whether or not such a right has been violated will depend on whether the interference with the right is proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued by that interference. Thus even if a policy that interferes with a Convention right might be aimed at securing a legitimate purpose (e.g. the prevention of crime), this will not in itself justify the violation if the means adopted to secure the purpose are excessive in the circumstances. The principle is applied in the UK courts in cases under the Human Rights Act.

Subjects: Law.

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