A whiff of brimstone: Andrew Neil critiques human rights on prime time TV

15 March 2012 by

The road to hell as we know is paved with good intentions and here they are, laid bare by the Daily Politics broadcaster in his exposition of everything that has gone wrong with the Convention since it was forged in the crucible of two world wars. 

Post war prosperity ensured that genocide and dictatorships did not arise again. But the Convention has become a “political poison” that goes to the very core of how the country is governed.

In “Rights and Wrongs” Neil declares that he is trying  “to cut throughout the hype and confusion” surrounding the subject, and his approach is undeniably forthright and populist. No doubt he will be castigated severely for poor reporting. But to be fair, he points out that the media had exaggerated some judgments – you can’t avoid deportation merely by owning a cat, but you can if you have a settled family who happens to own one.  He also cites a number of decisions from Strasbourg that most people in this country would support, or at least think nothing of these days – gays in the military, the abolition of corporal punishment in schools, freedom of the press (particularly the ruling that saved Andrew Neil from jail during the Spycatcher affair in the 1980s).

But – inevitably – the documentary focussed on the cases of Abu Qatada and Aso Mohammed Ibrahim,  the asylum seeker whose car hit and killed 12-year-old Amy Houston, and who successfully resisted deportation because of his right to a family life.

As Neil points out,

If judges continually make rulings that the mainstream decent majority regard as unacceptable, the danger is that majority is going to become increasingly hostile to the idea of human rights

And John Reid, Blair’s last home secretary,  now regrets this country’s adoption of the ECHR. He tells Neil that human rights gives “absolute rights” to one individual, even when that individual threatens the rest of the 64 million population. If there were to be some “major atrocity”, and it was revealed that part of its causation was government’s inability to detain or deport people there would be a public backlash, a public demand that we derogate completely from the Convention.

Would that be so unthinkable? Andrew Neil doesn’t think so. There are 47 countries signed up to the Convention, and not all of them live up to its ideals. Some countries  “are notorious for turning a blind eye to Strasbourg decisions when they’re inconvenient”.  So why do we gold plate the Convention here, under the HRA?

But surprisingly no-one in this programme puts the case particularly strongly, either for abolishing the HRA or withdrawing from the Convention. Some MPs and lawyers cleave to the notion of ancient British rights. But it’s not as easy as the “political romantics” think, says Neil. You can’t just tear up the Human Rights Act and rely on the Magna Carta.  The very limited rights in that ancient contract between King John and his feudal barons are easily overridden by Parliament.  It’s all very well getting “misty eyed” about the Magna Carta, but that amounts to “sweet FA” in modern law.  And whatever we forge by way of a “home-grown” bill of rights, without full withdrawal from the Convention (and probably the European Council as well) we will still be subservient to the Strasbourg Court –

We still couldn’t deport Qatada or deport foreign criminals who run children down and leave them to die on the streets”

Pulling out of Strasbourg would be legally and politically possible, but Neil concludes that most mainstream politicians, on the left or the right, are not prepared to go that far.

 It’s a stark choice and not one that any of the parties are prepared to face up to.

It was an interesting and timely documentary, particularly in the light of the Telegraph’s recent report of leaked emails and official papers from the Bill of Rights Commission which reveal how reveal how riven it is by splits and disputes. The recent resignation of Michael Pinto-Duschinsky highlighted the deep ideological divisions within the Commission but it is also beset by inequitable allocation of resources between the “Clegg appointees” and the “Cameron appointees”. The latter, it appears, have insufficient staff and facilities, while the former have the benefit of the assistance of human rights pressure groups (with which the UK is “exceptionally heavily” populated). As Pinto-Duschinksy points out,

While we need to be open to such pressure groups and to official bodies associated with them (such as the EHRC) we need to be careful that their demands for access to the Commission do not crowd out those of the ‘silent majority’.

If the Commission comes up with a split report, and the proposed reforms to the Strasbourg Court are stalled by endemic inefficiency and political self-interest, the stalemate over our continuing adherence to Strasbourg and its rulings looks set to continue into the far distant future, bearing out Andrew Neil’s gloomy predictions.

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  1. sion wright says:

    I think we should look at our history, and realise the same mistakes have been made over and over since the begining of civilisations. The masses empowring the few, who are then subjected to temptation and often give into it at the exspense of other peoples suffering.
    But this is not humanitys big problem, the big problem is that we the masses allow them to do it, as ultimatly we hold the true power.But instead we just ignore the situation and they do as they please.
    Humanity has come along way since its inception, but that does not mean we still have a long way to go. And if we are not careful we may even go backwards. As finacial system, so manipulated and extorted by selfish people for personal gain begin to fail, we may see a time where we cannot meet the basic needs of our population. This would be very undersirable.
    I think a change must come soon, as the way we live on this planet is not sustaniable. Our economic systems rely on permanent growth, but we live on a planet with finite recourses, so it is inevitable that we will need to radicaly change the impact we have on the earth. We can either start making the change now while we have some stability and resources. Or leave the problem for future generations to deal with.
    We need to focus on producing the essentials localy, instead of relying on foreign trade. It should be everyones right to earn a living off the land, which we have been deprived of us by business. We need to learn how to empower the masses rather than the few. We need to stop our materialistic obsesions and realise material objects cannot grant happyness in themselves, but may be used as a tool through which to obtain happyness. We need to throw down cultural and class barriers and realise we are all humans we all want to live happily and fighting each other will never acheive this.

    I could go on forever, but my opinions are only based on what i have been told by people and there opinions. And by tacking in all these opinions and cross checking them with facts, we move closer to the truth. As after all the truth is not told, it is realised. whats your opinion??

  2. mike farrell says:

    I also thought the program was interesting, It was flawed, some things it explained well, some arguments were quite balanced and others were not. I think on the whole it managed to show a more balanced and educational viewpoint than the public is used to through the media and tabloids.
    I was especially pleased that the program managed to give some of the background of the ECHR and the fact that it was and always has been in essence a British Bill of Rights in itself that was given wider European acceptance. It was also interesting to see Dominic grieve actually defending quite strongly the convention and its continued relevance, which kind of undermined the British Bill of Rights nonsense. Oh and the explanation of the irrelevance today of Magna Carta was good dispelling some of the freeman of the land guff that continues to float around.
    I did find it amusing where at one point Andrew claimed (while quaffing champaign) to love Europe, and how he likes to visit there often. Given the fact that he is in Europe of which the UK is a part despite our isolation by 25 miles of channel, I think in that one statement he said more on his and possibly the public true feeling on Europe than anywhere else in the program, the fact that many people do not feel that the UK is part of Europe at all, and that perhaps where be where some of the public resentment comes from, misguided as it may be by political and media spin and rhetoric.
    Overall, an enjoyable and relevant watch.

  3. […] Rosalind English at the UK Human Rights Blog is fairly positive about the programme, as is James Walton at the Telegraph who calls it “level headed” – a fair characterisation in my view. Charon QC, while suggesting “there were faults in the analysis and scope”, urges you to see it. I recommend it too. I was pleased to see the BBC show a very accessible but non-simplistic hour on this important subject. The only shame is that it was shown on BBC2 rather than BBC1. […]

  4. frednach says:

    I though the documentary was great with a flavour of views. Most telling for me was the admission by the govenment or rather the Attorney General who conceded that despite the draw backs in terms of the highlighted cases, the fact remains the government is committed to the the ECHR, as it does not wish to opt of the convention, not least, as it would undermine those values so dear to us, and secondly cause something of a cause celebre those new and controversial (given their human rights records) member states in shaping and developing the future of europe with some 160m citizens.

    It is also clear that adopting a bill of rights is no answer for two reasons. First, our rights are so enshrined with european law or influence that, it is difficult to see how a new bill of rights is to isolate purely british laws or values (an aspect favoured by G Robertson) from european influence. Besides, are conventional rights a preserve of a particular state or culture, is RIGHT TO LIFE a british trait or a unversal one.

    Moreover, notwithstanding the above point the fact remains implementation of a bill of rights reflecting modern values and cultures is no guarantee from citizens bringing actions against publlc authorities or indeed the state, see the US consitutional rights.. One must also add the aside from the ECHR, citizens have redress also to the European Court of Justice in applying euroean laws and regulations.

  5. I got the feeling that the journey was something of an Andrew Neil ego trip. As a TV Licence Fee payer I wondered why he was travelling first class when the BBC could have saved money by ensuring he only travelled standard class? Too much time was given to the irrelevant but tragic issue of the young girl run over and killed, and her father’s views. The only relevant issue involved the driver’s human right to family life. The rest was emotive claptrap.

    busybeebuzz: “The ex-con who used the HRA to fight for the right of prisoners to vote only served to prove that you don’t have to be very intelligent to get a law degree”.

    I possess superior intelligence but no law degree, and have succeeded in defeating those with law degrees.

    Adam Wagner: “Then there was the gratuitously extended YouTube video of John Hirst with the point apparently being made that people we don’t like shouldn’t have rights, because we don’t like them. It really wasn’t very sophisticated”.

    The Yoube video was meant as an attack upon The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express headlines referring to murderers, rapists and paedophiles to get the vote. Whatever one thinks about it, goading the media, it hardly undermines prisoners votes and human rights which is what Andrew Neil was attempting to argue. It is certain media and certain politicians which seek to undermine the issues. Having made a fool of Andrew Neil twice on the Daily Politics when he played the man instead of the ball, he clearly had an axe to grind. I did question whether he was too stupid to understand such a complex issue.

    Henry Oliver: “I think that section did a good job of exposing Hirst’s inability to make a political argument about this issue. The fact that Strasbourg has ruled in his favour was irrelevant to the question: it is the inability of a democratic legislature to determine the franchise that causes political unease amongst the population at large”.

    My ability to win the legal argument is very relevant to the issue. Perhaps Henry Oliver is confusing me with those MPs inability during the motion and so-called debate in the House of Commons?

  6. mkp says:

    I just loved the way Mike Mansfield QC blew him away by saying that he, Andrew, was overpaid himself and also that chambers and firms which practised law other than “human rights” made much more money – but this was uncontroversial … Why?

    All I can observe is that by living in three continents in the past 2 decades I can say that the UK is a worthwhile place to call “home”. I’d say that human rights have quite a lot to do with my conclusion.

  7. MFP says:

    The “people we don’t like shouldn’t have rights” narrative was a constant throughout the programme. Why else would it have aired for so long Hirst’s youtube video? In my opinion he missed the chance to make a decent argument against prisoners’ right to vote there.

    Let’s not forget that the ECtHR’s decision in the Hirst case was against the UK’s *blanket ban* on prisoners’ right to vote, not a question of restricting the rights of serious criminals to vote. With that in mind, I don’t see how it can be that what Neil was actually trying to get at was the question of the appropriate balance of rights. Either that or he failed miserably to convey the message for balance of rights (not that the Court doesn’t already do this very frequently).

    What was most irritating about the show was that every case that was mentioned was not accompanied by any reference as to why they were decided that way. Neil reserved himself to referring to “because of family rights” here or there. I will give you a few examples:

    1) The case about giving sex offenders the right to appeal against the inclusion of their personal data on the sex offenders’ list: there was no effort to explain why the right of appeal (and therefore a right to contest the inclusion on the list, and not a right to immediately remove data from list) was recognised in the decision.

    2) Quilla and the marriage age case: no reference to the disproportionality of the ban.

    3) During John Reid’s interview and the issue of control orders: there was no mention there of the fact that individuals indefinitely detained or subject to control orders were NOT charged with a criminal offence due to the absence of sufficient evidence against them (therefore meaning they were effectively detained without criminal charge, which even under a ‘British civil liberties’ approach would probably not be sustainable).

    The list could go on. How is the British public supposed to have an opinion when the information is presented in such a way? I’m not convinced Neil himself understands the issues he was trying to deal with. Perhaps he should have spent some more time reading Ed Bates’ book (see minutes 14:13-14:26 of the programme).

  8. Mark says:

    people – can we lose the ‘law’ for a minute and concentrate on what’s right and wrong?
    some of you are far too verbose and quite frankly boring.
    stick to the topic and quit the bs – you are in danger of being just like Andrew Neil with respect to his attitude that ‘england is the seat of all that is right’
    pretty sick of it tbh.
    we are not right on some issues – and the attitude that we expect to ask ‘the people’ for their opinion is quite frankly mind-blowing.
    most people here are uneducated idiots.its pretty difficult to find a site that caters for the slightly educated… yet some of you seem to think that allowing 3rd rate sun readers to have an opinion on your welfare is ok – what?

  9. Vanessa says:

    A very good programme but what was not made clear was the fact that the Magna Carta was a contract between our King and the people (represented by the Barons). As such it is NOT on the Statute Books nor is it anything to do with parliament. The MPs – past and present – have NO RIGHT to meddle with English Common Law, it is not in their power to change anything; Common Law and our rights within it are enshrined in our traditions and history and we fought hard for them. The MP you spoke to on the routemaster (David ???) seems to be the only MP who is well informed and knows the power of Common Law. For England to be ruled by a foreign power (EU) and to be locked up in prison before a trial and been found guilty is ILLEGAL according to our Magna Carta and English Bill of Rights. The MPs have committed TREASON and should be strung up in the Tower.
    The Human Rights lawyers should be kicked into the Channel and told to swim to France where they belong. None of the Clauses of Magna Carta and Bill of Rights should be touched by Parliament – I repeat – they are NOT part of Parliamentary Law nor are they in the Statute Books. If they do not understand the language then they should get an interpreter who does.

    1. ObiterJ says:

      Vanessa – regrettably, this is wrong on so many legal grounds. Magna Carta was a concession forced out of John by the Barons for their own purposes. It IS on the statute book – though most of it has now been repealed by Parliament which, after the Civil War (17th Century), emerged as the greatest power in the realm.

      Parliament can replace common law rules by enacting an Act. this has been done far too many times for mention.

      With your next line, I agree – “Common Law and our rights within it are enshrined in our traditions and history and we fought hard for them.”

      England is NOT ruled by any foreign power – the UK remains a sovereign nation. However, I fully agree that the EU has enormous influence but only does so in the UK by virtue of the European Communities Act 1972.

      Nobody has committed treason and we do not “string people up” even for that offence anymore.

  10. Penelope Hamilton Bird says:

    I completely agree with Adam’s comment above.
    The programme attempted to cover too much ground in too short a time. Hopefully some people will have learnt quite a bit, though, as long as they were paying rather more attention than the Telegraph reviewer had done. But for me, it lacked some solid explanation from a normal Human Rights barrister, it lacked an interview with Sir Nicholas Bratza and I also think that Roger Smith of Justice would have put the case for the HRA in a way which would be accessible to someone watching with no legal knowledge. And was it not disgracefully disingenuous to suggest that Human Rights barristers drive Ferraris? I would say that we need a whole series on this topic and cover the ground properly. Let’s not forget that most people watching TV are not lawyers and depend on sound information from the BBC and other media sources to inform themselves. Therefore they must be properly informed.

    1. alan says:

      I’m not a lawyer, I’ve read the press articles, watched the TV documentary and I still don’t understand whole picture.

      (Why I’m wandering round the ‘net to trying to understand more)

      Why cant the BBC run a series of programs in a similar style to the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures? or the Michael Sandel lectures about the philosophy of justice.

      And why aren’t more lawyers writing up articles about the subject in wikipedia?

      I would like to know more about the right to a family life. If you have two identical people, who have committed identical crimes and the only difference is one is married with children and the other is single. Why does the married person get a more lenient treatment? (or is that my misperception due the media?). Is that discriminating against single people? A person guilty of a crime already has reduced (is that the correct word?) rights (ie they goto jail), why does that not apply to family rights? As to the rights of the family, the partner who committed the crimes knowingly putting the family at risk by committing the crimes in the first place. So is it the criminal who has violated the families rights, not the state?

      Separate to the specifics, I would also like to get a better understanding of the overall context within Europe. What is the situation in other similar EU countries. France, Germany, Netherlands etc.

  11. ObiterJ says:

    What is left of Magna Carta has little legal value today. For instance, the legal aid bill – cutting legal aid from whole areas – is somewhat at odds with the idea that justice will not be denied.

    “Pulling out of Strasbourg would be legally and politically possible, but Neil concludes that most mainstream politicians, on the left or the right, are not prepared to go that far.

    It’s a stark choice and not one that any of the parties are prepared to face up to.”

    This statement is correct. This is why Ministers are seeking some “solution” which minimises the influence of Strasbourg and maximises their own power and authority.

    The UK does have a lot of pressure groups. Anyone wonder why?

  12. Henry Oliver says:

    I don’t think the point was that people we don’t like shouldn’t have rights. That is a popular straw man, but it misses the similarity of that argument with the idea from the ECHR of limited rights. The ECHR allows the government to remove your liberty when you commit a crime – this is the same principle as removing your vote when you commit a serious crime, or your freedom of speech when you advocate immediate violence. To describe that as an attitude that only wants rights for some people mis-characterises the argument.

    I think that section did a good job of exposing Hirst’s inability to make a political argument about this issue. The fact that Strasbourg has ruled in his favour was irrelevant to the question: it is the inability of a democratic legislature to determine the franchise that causes political unease amongst the population at large. We restrict the rights of serious criminals in lots of ways – it’s not about who has rights, but where we draw the line. That is inherently political but it has been decided by lawyers. That is why people are cross – not because they just don’t like him.

    1. “I think that section did a good job of exposing Hirst’s inability to make a political argument about this issue.”

      Whereas I thought it did a good job of exposing Neil’s inability to accept the rule of law and the irrelevance of these political arguments. There is no ‘democratic override,’ no matter how much people might want there to be.

  13. James Lawson says:

    Geoffrey Robertson QC’s ‘Freedom, The Individual and the Law published in the early 1990s which waxes lyrical against the arbitrary use of authoritarian state power stands in sharp contrast to his suggestion that a ‘British Bill of Rights’ should be ‘written by poets’ and was one of the more ludicrous suggestions which came out of a programme which although accurately assesses the status of Magna Carta, and the distinction between the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice did little to educate the public about the status of the Human Rights Act and its limitations. For example, Neil made constant references to the Court having the ability to ‘strike down’ Parliament’s legislation when no such power exists and neither is it likely to in the context of the Human Rights Act.

    The programme tried hard but attempted to cover too much ground in the too short a period of time allocated to it, the result was to presented to the public a watered-down, over-simplified televised ‘tabloid’ with a ‘Monty Python’ view of reality. If the BBC put as much care into the making of such programmes as it does with its detailed natural history programmes, the British public would rather better informed than they are entertained. The programme promised much and delivered little that would allow a lay-person a reasonable opportunity of arriving at an informed opinion either way.

    1. Adam Wagner says:

      I agree with James! The programme tried hard and interviewed lots of relevant people (although no judges, representatives of the European Court of Human Rights, even though Neil visited Strasbourg, or anyone who could effectively articulate the reason for supporting an international system of rights protection). The sections which showed the “good” aspects of the European Convention seemed rather grudging, and many of the important cases it dealt with were bizarrely left to “victims” from a single side of the case to explain the legal complexities, accompanied by melancholy background music.

      So we were left with a well meaning but legally incoherent “explanation” of the Quilla case on forced marriages from a NGO worker which was left unchallenged (in fact, supported) by Neil’s leading questions, which unsurprisingly led to this brilliantly wrong summary of the case by a Telegraph reviewer:

      The European Court also overruled a British law restricting forced marriages — seemingly on the grounds that the right of the men to a family life overrides the right of young women not to be abducted

      (a) it wasn’t the European Court, it was the Supreme Court, and (b) it wasn’t the men who were effectively abducting young girls to be married whose rights were balanced against the victims of forced marriage, but the unfortunate couples who are age-18 but were, because of a “disproportionate” (cf. Supreme Court) Government policy to prevent forced marriages, were unable to get married until they were 21.

      The forced marriages example was central to the programme’s thesis and I thought the way it was presented was quite manipulative. Not a million miles away from the famous cat which Neil lampooned at the beginning of the programme, in fact.

      Then there was the gratuitously extended YouTube video of John Hirst with the point apparently being made that people we don’t like shouldn’t have rights, because we don’t like them. It really wasn’t very sophisticated.

      Anyway, I will try to respond to the programme in more detail! To use the old cliche, it generated a lot of heat with little light. Shame.

      1. London1 says:

        As far as I am aware the government were not stopping any one getting married. A British citizen can marry at 16 and the government are not responsible for the age of marriage outside their jurisdiction.

        All the government were doing, were refusing to issue marriage visas to British citizens and their foreign spouses, who were under 21. In fact they could already have been married in the UK, or abroad.The government are democratically elected and have the right to control their borders and answer to their voters, not the supreme court using the HRA, or the ECHR.

        There is nothing preventing the couple marrying and living abroad, or in a third country. Why should they always have to settle in Britain, unless it is really for financial reasons and the welfare state? Article 8 when it involves one British citizen and one foreign citizen should be decided internationality via balance migration. You take one of our citizens and we will take one of yours, population increase zero.

        The right to family life was originally intended by its authors, to prevent the state talking away your children and conscripting them in to a political organisations, such as the Hitler youth, or the young communists, therefore breaking up families. The current interpretations are simply made up by unelected, politically biased judges.

        All three political parties supported the 21 rule and the majority of parliament. Who are a bunch of politically motivated, liberal activist judges to strike that rule down.

        The fundamental flaw with human rights, is that parliament does not get the opportunity to interpret them first, before the judges get their hands on them. Judges interpret the law and parliament makes it. A judge interpreting the complex and detailed consumer credit act, for example, has a lot less room for interpretation, than they do for a simple one line human right. Parliament, who is not the government, has the right to say what they think a right means within British law. Even if the supreme court judges have the last word, they should be bound to take parliaments interpretation in to consideration.

    2. Mark says:

      In my opinion it was fundamentally biased in the way that it portrayed the public a right to decide what happens in individual cases.
      This is clearly not acceptable considering the average brit is a little englander who thinks we should export anyone who seems to be not british.
      I feel it is irrelevant to ‘poll’ idiots when talking about the rights of anyone…
      Hence my argument that it is best lef to people who have knowledge and abilities to see what is correct, rather than the ramblings of some old man in a pub…
      We are not america where they allow the jury to decide sentences…

  14. Justin Wong says:

    I don’t get it. Why shouldn’t public opinion (i.e. democracy) be used as the arbiter of what rights are deemed socially acceptable or not?

    Or are we suggesting that the ‘difficult’ decisions should only be left in the hands of an educated elite disenfranchising the rest of the population?

    Which is the true human right here? Are we a democratic society, or are we a technocratic one?

    1. Mark says:

      Q. do you want your rights to be in the hands of an uneducated passerby?

    2. Nita says:

      I’m old enough to remember that when ‘forced marriages’ first hit our shores in migrant populations, most of the ‘men in the street’ who voiced instinctive objections to the abuse of women were branded ‘racists’ – by the very same ‘young socialist lawyers’ who went on to become the HR barristers who now earn a fee opposing them on the grounds of ‘women’s rights’….perverse but true.

  15. Anon says:

    Thank you Nita for all your comments which perfectly describe and illustrate the problems that the ordinary person has. Rights are reduced to just empty words on paper when there is no ability to defend or use them or rely upon them to stop abuses etc. Some people have suffered the full forces of abuse for many years with no protection at all.Nowhere to turn to and too often no suitable help anywhere to be found.This is the stark reality of matters.The Police are just as bad as well.There is no Policing anymore in the truest form.
    They have abandoned their duties towards people to police without fear or favour in too many instances and think nothing of victims of crime or rights.
    There are those able to have protection of their rights and those who dont.
    It is a very unlevel playing field for those who dont fit into the niche clientele.
    It is particulary sickening when those being abused are descendents of those who fought and died for our freedoms. I speak as a ordinary person who lives the reality of the failures every single day.Just one of many thousands without any rights and no recourse or help. Justice and rights are sadly a myth to us.
    So what are people to do when things are going to get a lot worse in future?

  16. busybeebuzz says:

    I found this documentary to compelling, but uncomfortable viewing. My impression was that it was tabloid style propaganda in support of those who want to get rid of the HRA. However, Neil temporarily swung my view with his interview with the woman who is campaigning against forced marriages. The fabulous Michael Mansfield was evidently tricked into taking part in this documentary and looked very uncomfortable when he was asked about his earnings. I would like to know who Neil believes is the “mainstream decent majority”. The vast majority of people that I know (including law students) have never heard of the HRA, but there again I have never been a “mainstream” type of gal. Perhaps he was referring to the majority of racists who read the Sun. The ex-con who used the HRA to fight for the right of prisoners to vote only served to prove that you don’t have to be very intelligent to get a law degree. The bit about Magna Carta amounting to “sweet FA” in modern law amused me and made me think of those who support the Freemen of the land philosophy.

    1. Mark says:

      I agree with you, I was swayed momentarily by the forced marriages issue. But on reflection ( about 30 secs) i saw that it is clearly not the right way to solve the problem.
      Subjecting everyone to a law just to protect a few is clearly draconian.

    2. Nita says:

      When did Michael Mansfield become ‘fabulous’ :) And who managed to ‘trick ‘ him ( I’m looking for a barrister …..)

    3. Will says:

      Yes I too had a chuckle thinking about ‘freemen o the land’; have to ask though, which university is this where law students have never heard of the HRA??

  17. Mark says:

    Thanks for your comments Nita
    what i feel you fail to realise is that the law is not about legal aid or money or access to it.
    It’s about what’s right.
    In the case of the European court of human rights – i think they are right.
    it is clearly bad that some people don’t get access to the correct representation – but this should not diminish the common sense of what people in court are allowed…
    The blame needs to shift from what is seen as ‘outrageous’ judgements (which i feel are correct) to whatever you think is wrong. It is not right or just to suggest that because some people are spuriously outraged by some decisions that we should ignore the rights of anyone.

    1. Nita says:

      Of course I appreciate that ‘the law is about what is right’ – my point is, you can pass 1,000 laws and write them on the statutes, but if the state (police) doesn’t administer them, you cannot find a solicitor, and cannot bring a case to court yourself without risking the loss of your home – all 1,000 may as well be put in a skip.
      I truly believe that if these cases could only be brought on a pro bono basis, we’d see how many solicitors were genuinely interested in ‘what is right’ –

      ..almost none.

  18. Nita says:

    I genuinely feel that if solicitors were only able to bring HR cases on a pro-bono footing, the backlog of cases would disappear overnight…..as it is, the actual administration of the courts in Europe is now being performed by law students, as they are so overwhelmed with submissions…

    Given that the bloke in the street can no longer obtain Legal Aid for anything, and/or hardly any solicitors are prepared to work on a Legal Aid fee, UK domestic law is something they can only access on paper – why expect them to care greatly about the ‘human rights’ of people who are seen as ‘Johnny Foreigner’?
    They have no access to justice in housing matters (where often inaccurate free advice from a CAB volunteers has replaced a funded LA solicitor to represent them in matters of disrepair and eviction), and (a worrying trend) those accused of benefit fraud are advised to ‘plead guilty in a magistrates court to avoid risking jail in a crown court’, and all for want of legal representation in many parts of the country (shelter do not have the time to take matters to court). The Police ‘screen out ‘ 49% of all calls made to them, and despite contributing via tax and NI, they can be used as slave labourers if they become unemployed – how can anyone expect them to care greatly about the Human Rights of others, when they dont appear to have any rights at all?

  19. David says:

    Good programme, though left open how politically anything will be fixed about the human rights nonsense – certainly Cameron, Clegg and Miliband won’t fix it.

  20. Andrew Neil doesn’t get it and I doubt that he ever will. He seems to think that if he thinks a law is wrong or unreasonable or whatever, that gifts him permission to treat it as if it is voidable.

  21. Mark says:

    the popular opinion I refer to is the democratically elected parliament who are clearly trying to elicit votes by siding with the popular view – i find it very sad that a bunch of labour voters who do nothing more than think of themselves and how much tax credit they have lost can be allowed to decide anything important.

  22. Mark says:

    I was very disturbed by the Dale farm eviction. Esp considering that planning permission isn’t required after the amount of time they were there

    1. Silimon says:

      If you look around at their neighbours then no planning permission was required anywhere, but I think a beautiful community was better than a brown belt disused scrap yard. The courts failed to protect thm and a vulnerable minority community was ethnicaly cleansed. Anyway this is not point of article, though I hope HR blog will right more on its developments as Basildon council attempt to cleanse the so called ‘legal’ half of the site.

      1. Bryan says:

        Simple questions for your “beautiful community”: (i) what is their source of funds? (ii) what tax did they pay on it? (iii) what wages do they pay their employees? (iv) what national insurance contributions have they made? (v) what bylaws or any other laws (if any) have they broken whilst there? (vi) can it be right that they are able to rely on having been there a long time, when the only reason they have been allowed to remain is that they have twisted the system by appealing or ignoring every eviction order going? I have no objection to anyone living the lifestyle of their choice – provided that they pay for it themselves, and pay the same taxes the rest of us incur; and that they don’t threaten people the way my family has been regularly threatened by local travellers.

      2. Nita says:

        Disagree Silimon – ‘the courts’ bent over backwards in this case – the fact that you lose a case doesn’t mean the courts fail you, it can just mean you are wrong in law –

  23. Silimon says:

    I disagree, the only differing (not provocative) viewpoint that appeared on the show was when Michael Mansfield was berrated with questions about how much money he earned. There were many hints of racism but mainly condescending patriotic ignorance/arrogant sentiments of how britain does not commit human rights abuses but needs to remain in the convention to act as a shining light for every lesser country.
    This reinforces beliefs that there are not serious violations or (potential of) human rights such as in control orders. Also looking at the eviction of Dale Farm and the consequences of this yet to come. I thought it laughable that John Reid was allowed to casually argue against human rights unchallenged with reference to his sadistic policy in office or the governments warcrimes :)

  24. Mark says:

    I completely disagree with the idea suggested on his documentary that we should make rulings based on popular opinion.
    We have educated judges, and people who are far more qualified than the ‘average joe’ to make decisions based on the facts presented to them. I wholeheartedly disagree that we should make decisions about either sentencing, death penalties, or sending people to a country to be tortured based on some idiot in the street’s 2 second view of a situation.

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