Hyped up fuss

21 April 2011 by

This has been an interesting week for the continuing “debate” over the future of the European Court of Human Rights. Stay tuned for an explanation of the quotation marks.

First, Dominic Raab MP has released a pamphlet with the think-tank CIVITAS entitled Strasbourg in the Dock. Raab, a former lawyer, has been a vocal opponent of the European Court of Human Right as well as the Human Rights Act. The pamphlet can be read here and the press release and summary can be found here. He finds some of the European judges are “woefully lacking in experience” and, as a consequence, “are undermining the credibility and value of the Court“.

Raab recommends enshrining free votes on Strasbourg ruling, guaranteeing that our Supreme Court has the final stay on the interpretation of European Convention rights in the UK, preventing the courts rewriting express terms of legislation under section 3 of the Human Rights Act (note that the act refers to this as “interpretation”), removing fetters on deportation and to pursue reform of the Strasbourg court.

The pamphlet also has a preface by Lord Carlile of Berriew QC. Carlile was formerly the UK’s terror law watchdog and in his final report he caused a furore by warning that the UK had become a “safe haven” for foreign suspects due to its failure to persuade the Strasbourg court that when a person risks ill-treatment abroad, this must be balanced against the risk to national security of them remaining (see para 79).

In his preface, Carlile says that “a narrow interpretation of [Article 3] of the Convention has had a chilling effect on deportation, and therefore on public safety“. He also laments the “alarming evening that the public regards the Convention and its consequences” as “out of step with reasonable public expectation.”

The Telegraph and Daily Mail have picked up on Raab’s and Carlile’s comments. The Mail blames Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for the “chilling effect” and the court “riding roughshod over our sovereign parliament” (the same Parliament which, it should be mentioned, voted to abide by European Court of Human Rights rulings in the first place).

Meanwhile, out in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe, which monitors states’ compliance with European Court of Human Rights judgments, has published its 4th Annual Report on the Supervision of the Execution of Judgments (hat-tip to the ECHR blog). The number of cases pending at the court has again risen year-on-year by over 1,000 to 9,325 (see page 30), The prisoner votes issue is discussed on page 190, but the report was written before the latest development in the ongoing saga.

It should be remembered that despite the fuss over prisoner votes and antipathy towards the Strasbourg court, the UK is actually a comparatively good citizen in terms of human rights. €371,160 was awarded to claimants against the UK (page 52) as compared to over €7m against Romania and Russia and an enormous €24,542,000 against Turkey. And there were only 13 new case resulting in damages against the UK in 2010, as compared to 189 against Russia and 287 against Turkey (page 54).

Also on prisoner votes, former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf has told the Guardian that he “can’t understand… the antipathy towards it”, and

What we want to do is make prisoners much more responsible, and giving them the responsibility of voting seems to me wholly consistent with that. I think it is very unfortunate that there is all this hyped up fuss about it.

And, the House of Commons Library has released a new and detailed briefing paper to be used by MPs in support of their Parliamentary duties: European Court of Human Rights rulings: are there options for governments? It is good to see quotes from legal bloggers including Carl Gardner (pages 9, 32), Rosalind English (22, 24) and myself (4, 29). The paper is interesting and deals with the key issues in detail, including notably the question of whether the UK can continue to ignore the prisoner votes ruling. In essence: “States cannot legally ignore a Court decision that they are in breach of the Convention” (page 12).

Finally, why the quotation marks? I would paraphrase Lord Woolf in that most of the debate over the European Court of Human Rights amounts to “hyped up fuss”. The fact remains that the Bill of Rights Commission has its hands tied as it cannot recommend withdrawing from the European Convention, but rather must “incorporate… and build” upon the UK’s obligations, which include abiding by decisions of the European Court. This was part of the initial Coalition agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats which promised to  ensure “that these rights continue to be enshrined in British law”, and no amount of bluster is likely to displace it.

That is not to say that there won’t be some tweaking of human rights law in the UK, but despite a long wish-list from practitioners and opponents of the Convention, there is unlikely to be significant change.

It may be that the Commission recommend tweaking the Strasbourg court too, but in reality – despite taking on the 6 month chairmanship of the Council of Europe in a few months – the UK will have little influence on the reform of the court save for using its vote in the Council of Europe.

So, watch out for a spirited debate but expect little change in this Parliament at least.

Sign up to free human rights updates by email, Facebook, Twitter or RSS

Related posts

5 comments


  1. Fish & reptile enthusiasts breed them in tanks. What sort of WEIRD creatures breed in ‘Think Tanks’? And we are supposed to listen with awe when they pop their heads up to make ‘profound’ statements!*!*! The whole ‘debate’ is notable for the ignorance from all sides, especially those who get the ECt-HR & the EU mixed up. Dominic Raab? As Dr. Johnson said, “I hate to speak ill of anyone, but that man is a lawyer”. “States cannot legally ignore a Court decision that they are in breach of the Convention” Ha bloody Ha! Following my success in Scarth v UK 33745/96, the Govt. gave a solemn promise that such a violation could not happen again. It did – EXACTLY the same – in gross violation of Article 6 AND the promise! The ECt-HR itself, who hate the LIP as much as our own lot, begrudge me the earlier success &, determined I will not succeed again, have thrown the new case out. “woefully lacking in experience”??? The problem is that the whole profession is ‘TOTALLY lacking’ in INTEGRITY!

  2. Ed Bates says:
  3. John Hirst says:

    Law Think: In my view, Dominic Raab is not the sharpest pencil in the box.

    In Hirst v UK (No2) at both the Chamber and Grand Chamber hearings, in 2004 and 2005, the Foreign Office represented the UK. Dominic Raab worked at the Foreign Office during 2004 and 2005. His advice today is just as flawed as it was back then. What part of he lost the case does he fail to understand?

  4. Law Think says:

    Dominic Raab says European Court judges “woefully lacking in experience” – maybe hypocritical after he called the Hirst v UK decision an “EU ruling” (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8299615/What-happens-if-we-defy-Europe-Nothing.html). MP and one of the most vocal anti-ECHR campaigners, I don’t understand how he can confuse the ECtHR and EU.

    1. Tim says:

      I think the two are sometimes deliberately conflated for political expediency.

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the UKHRB


This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.

Subscribe

Categories


Tags


Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Commission on a Bill of Rights common law communications competition confidentiality consent conservation constitution contact order contact tracing contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus costs costs budgets Court of Protection crime criminal law Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation DEFRA deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention Dignitas diplomacy disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Environment Equality Act Equality Act 2010 Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Facebook Family Fatal Accidents Fertility FGM Finance foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage gay rights Gaza Gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Gun Control Health HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Human Rights Watch Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests insurance international law internet inuit Iran Iraq Ireland islam Israel Italy IVF ivory ban Japan joint enterprise judaism judicial review Judicial Review reform Julian Assange jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid legal aid cuts Leveson Inquiry lgbtq liability Libel Liberty Libya lisbon treaty Lithuania local authorities marriage Media and Censorship mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery morocco murder music Muslim nationality national security naturism neuroscience NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges Obituary parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury physician assisted death Piracy Plagiarism planning planning system Poland Police Politics Pope press prison Prisoners prisoner votes Prisons privacy Professional Discipline Property proportionality Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries quarantine Radicalisation rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials sexual offence Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance Syria Tax technology Terrorism tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe

Disclaimer


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: