Saturday, 19 February 2011

Human Rights- British as Sausage and Chips

The overwhelming vote by MP's  against implementation of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights ("ECHR") to give prisoners the vote is only OK as a symbolic gesture to demonstrate the ultimate power of Parliament. However some of the speeches were a disgrace and muddied the waters in a populist media campaign that is ill informed and ill intentioned. If they don't now move on and compromise it will be an embarrassment and a disgrace.

The ECHR is not the same organisation as the European Economic Area ("EU") , which is fundamentally a customs and trade treaty. Instead the ECHR is an international Court set up after the war with one aim in mind- to enforce a commonly agreed standard of basic human rights.

Thus screaming "Europe!"  to frighten people is either ill informed or wicked.

After the war Europe deliberately constructed a framework to ensure that Nazism and totalitarianism could never happen again. British and French Jurists were extremely influential in drafting a list of rights which includes the right  to life A2 , the right not to be tortured A3, the right not to be discriminated against A14 and the right to a fair trial A6, as well as the right to respect for your family, privacy, correspondence and your home A8

As British as sausage and chips, surely?

One MP called the ECHR "A kangaroo court". Really? A court where respected judges including our own are sent to try and agree on tough cases over basic human values that unite us?

David Davis, co-sponsor of the bill uttered the word "lawyers" like he meant cat sick, and explained that until the lawyers came along there hadn't been a problem.  Not being a lawyer became a badge of honour, and scarce 22 MP's dared to speak for the idea of obeying the law. How Jack Straw could sponsor the bill and defend the ECHR frankly I don't understand.

Banning lunatics and criminals from the vote only dates to the 1870's, and banning women was always traditional. Now women and people with mental health problems have the vote, and the idea is floating that some prisoners should get to vote too.

Strangely the story became that fat shark lawyers would bleed the government dry unless Parliament voted for the reforms, and therefore it voted against it. But then, this is a kangaroo parliament.

The Express and other newspapers have been shrieking at the prospect that 90.000 people who have been banged up (among the highest in Europe may I add) might  get the vote. Something entirely irrelevant in electoral term in a nation of over 60 million people.  Yet one of the functions of time in prison, and one of the cheapest ways of encouraging a prisoner to engage with the idea of how they will behave once they are released into society, is voting.

Frankly, I think many won't bother in line with national trends, some will add a desolate vote to Nick Griffin and other nutters, but some will start to come to their senses and will benefit from being able to make small gestures

Once again the Express is in paroxysms of delight today when a High Court Judge has rejected damages claims by frustrated prison voters as un-British and unconstitutional. What the Express fails to understand is that only the British Supreme Court is able to pass judgement on the conflict between our Courts and the ECHR. Thus the case will make its way up the Court Appellate process. Express notwithstanding.

Ill intentioned and ill informed, newspapers whip up clouds of confusion because lazy journalists know there is no point investigating and reporting the facts. Their editor will rip their research to pieces and impose the line their editors' paymasters dictate.

My worry is that our Judges, the best in the world, will bottle it in this media storm. But I'm a small cog in a big wheel. I hold my breath and have my hopes.

1 comment:

  1. I would have posted a comment but 4,096 characters is not nearly enough!