Friday, 25 February 2011

British politicians and the ECHR

There is a strong suspicion that many MPs - both Conservative and Labour - would like not only to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA) but also to renege on the European Convention of Human Rights. (drawn up, it should be remembered, under the guidance of British lawyer and Conservative MP Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe) altogether. On the other hand, most liberals want to maintain unrestricted access to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in addition to preserving the HRA. Peter Black comments here.

The eminent barrister Lord Carlile of Berriew - as Alex Carlile, once the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats - on BBC-Wales' "Sunday Supplement" of 20th February.took a middle course. He would devolve back to British courts the enforcement of human rights, and restrict direct petition to the ECHR to a very limited range of cases where there were major constitutional issues. The ECHR should be interpreted in a British way which is nevertheless compatible with the European charter.

Lord Carlile had no argument with the Convention, but with the inefficiency of the ECHR. There is a backlog of 120,000 cases before the ECHR, and it is increasing month by month. The court may have 17 judges, but, in his opinion, only two or three are worthy of the name.

He criticised as "maladroit" Home Secretary Theresa May's response to the Supreme Court ruling on the right of appeal of certain convicted sex offenders. Maladroit, because it implied that the Supreme Court judges had done something outrageous. They had done no such thing. They had interpreted the law which parliament had placed before them in the context of human rights standards which will remain whether we have a British Bill of Rights or not.

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