Or does it just seem that way?
We face a situation where there is almost nothing that the government and the security services can do about known terrorist suspects, in cases where there is insufficient evidence to mount a full-scale prosecution. Again and again, our courts strike down attempts to repatriate them (“they might be mistreated in their own countries”); or to use any kind of preventative custody; or to impose curfews and to restrict their movements.
Again and again, the decisions of the courts are inspired by an extreme left-wing libertarian interpretation of the law, based on the extremely wide-ranging and ill-defined “rights” contained in the European Convention of Human Rights. And the decisions appear to imply an assumption that the rights of foreigners always trump the rights of Brits.
Before the General Election, the Conservative Party appeared to be committed either to the wholesale repeal of Labour’s ill-judged accession to the ECHR, or at least to the creation of exceptions and derogations that would have allowed us to protect British citizens and to repatriate foreign nationals whose presence in the UK was deemed a threat to public safety. There was loose talk of creating a new, British Bill of Rights which would replace the ECHR in this country. Personally, I never rated this idea. I rather agree with Margaret Thatcher that in this country we have democracy, and common law, and a free press, and that is enough – or at least it would be, if our judges exercised a little common sense, and were prepared to take into account the rights of British citizens as well as the rights of foreign terrorists.
In any case, the commitment to repeal the ECHR in this country, like so much else, seems to have fallen foul of the Coalition Agreement and Nick Clegg’s knee-jerk approval of any EU measure, however ill-conceived.
On the back of all this we now have the case of Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, a 33-year-old Iraqi Kurd despite having killed a child, Amy Houston in Darwen, Lancs in 2003. At the time he was driving while disqualified, and he failed to stop after the accident. Yet the Immigration and Asylum Chamber has ruled that he may stay. They don’t even have the poor fig-leaf of claiming that his life would be at risk in Iraq. They base their decision on his right to “family life”. So what about the rights of the Houston family? No tribunal ruling can bring their daughter back. This man is exactly the sort of criminal alien who should be deported after serving his sentence, and if he wanted a right to family life, he should have thought of that before driving dangerously while disqualified.
If he is so desperate to spend time with his family, there is no reason they should not accompany him back to Iraq.
Both David Cameron and Immigration Minister Damien Green have expressed their anger, and called for an appeal by the Border Agency against the decision. And quite right too. But it’s not enough. We need to fulfil our election pledge to draw the teeth of the ECHR. And we have to re-educate our judges. We have to find a way – heaven knows how but that’s what the government is for – to establish a proper balance between the rights of British nationals and the rights of others. And (whisper it quietly), where these rights conflict, British judges must put their compatriots’ interests first.