The Human Rights Act


OK. I’m going to get into trouble for admitting it. But just once in a while, Prime Minister David Cameron gets it right. And he’s right to try to repeal the Human Rights Act. And let’s be clear. That’s not because we want fewer human rights, or less protection for citizens. It’s because our rights are, in a very real sense, our birthright. We are born with them. Under our British system, it is the duty of the state to protect those rights — not to hand them down to us as something we should be grateful for. And it’s because we want that protection delivered by democratically accountable bodies, and by British Courts, not by foreign (and arguably synthetic) courts, where judges may be more concerned about political posturing than delivering justice and protecting rights.

So UKIP will not be opposing Cameron’s plan (this time). The opposition comes from the Moaning Minnies and Wet Willies and nay-sayers in his own party (and perhaps Labour and Lib-Dems as well).

A headline in today’s Sunday Telegraph (May 24th) reads “Senior Tory’s threat to quit over Human Rights Act”. The report is presented in stolidly gender-neutral terms, which suggest to me that it may involve a Moaning Minnie rather than a Wet Willie. But this un-named “member of the government” says “The idea that my constituents should have fewer protections available as a last resort is not something I can accept”.

How can anyone who gets as far as becoming “a member of the government” have such a splendidly naïve concept of human rights? Or regard British justice as an inadequate protection?

Yet he/she is not alone. Dominic Grieve says that leaving the ECHR “would be disastrous”. Perhaps he also thinks that freedom and democracy would be disastrous? Perhaps the British people are incapable of governing themselves, and operating their own legal system? He may think that — I don’t. Damian Green says “Withdrawing would appear as though the UK was no longer committed to human rights”. No Damian, it wouldn’t. And even if it did, we should not let the misunderstandings of others prevent us from doing what is right in principle.

I prefer Bernard Jenkin’s comment: “The application of human rights in the UK should not be decided by a foreign court”. Amen to that, Bernard.

There are two fundamental problems of principle with the ECHR. First, any attempt to codify rights in some kind of convention leads to judicial activism and mission creep. And second, the ECHR is justiciable in a foreign court with foreign judges, largely furnished from countries with markedly different legal systems with little idea of English Common Law, or the rights which centuries and generations of British people have enjoyed.

So: judicial activism. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the ECHR. You could go through, phrase by phrase and clause by clause, and ask “So what’s wrong with that?”. And generally speaking, the answer is “Not much”. The problem is over-interpretation. The Telegraph gives a good account of cases where the term “right to a family life” has been stretched beyond reason (just as the qualifications for asylum have also been stretched to breaking point), and over-interpreted out of sight. Fathers allowed to remain because of children they’ve never seen and never supported. One case where the miscreant’s relationship with his cat was taken as evidence of family ties (“Oh no it wasn’t!” — I hear the howls of protest from the politically correct. But I’m afraid it was.).

The result is that terrorist suspects and foreign criminals are free to remain in our country (often at enormous expense in legal costs, housing and welfare payments), and able to re-offend. How does our un-named “member of the government” think that this ensures the human rights of her constituents? It does precisely the opposite. It puts them at risk, both physically and economically.

And the idea of these matters being determined in foreign courts by foreign judges is deeply offensive. As Enoch Powell said “I hold that man to be a traitor who appeals to foreign courts over the heads of Her Majesty’s justices”. He had a point.

Of course where Cameron gets it wrong is in his plan to replace the ECHR with a British Bill of Rights. If he does, we shall get straight back onto the treadmill of judicial activism and over-interpretation. I believe it was Margaret Thatcher who, when asked about the ECHR and so on, replied, “In this country we have our Common Law and a free press, and that is enough”. I think she was right.

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21 Responses to The Human Rights Act

  1. Jane Davies says:

    If anything is guaranteed to send me into a hissy fit it is this ridiculous “human rights” issue. As if we had no human rights before this group of unelected idiots in Brussels were on the scene. As for a criminal having more rights than any other citizen this is also guaranteed to send me into a rage. I know of many pensioners who because of the frozen pension scandal cannot afford to join their only family members in Canada or Australia or any other of the random countries where this insidious policy discriminates against them, so are destined to spend their last years alone, what about their right to a family life? It is denied them even though they have appealed to the EU court of Human Rights. Human rights for some but not everyone. Get rid of it I say and deny criminals this excuse for not being held accountable for their actions.

  2. Anne says:

    Is this the same Prime Minister that this has come from? New Surveillance of electronic communications for intelligence and national security purposes Adopted on 5 December 2014?
    We read that some in our present Government want to get out of “The Human Rights Act”? Why? And can it be done? Will the people Have A SAY before their ‘Uman RIGHTS are taken from them?
    I do note however concerning the above, that, Article 8(1) ECHR states that ‘everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’. The courts have since held ‘correspondence’ to include phone calls, emails and internet use. Strange isn’t it don’t you think!

    As for having a “NEW BILL OF RIGHTS” no doubt these NEW RIGHTS would be put before the people, and if the people voted for the NEW, would they realise that the new may well over-ride their own Longstanding Common Law Bill of Rights and even may well do the same for our 800 year old Magna Carta-the very best Rights we have, and they belong to the people, and that may well be WHY the people may have a referendum on accepting the new- but they may not be told that in accepting the new-may indeed would destroy the old-yet we have fought in TWO terrible WARS to keep them-the last WAR I remember very well indeed for we were indeed bombed out-plus we were told exactly what we was indeed fighting that WAR for. We had a truly GREAT Prime Minister then however who worked night and day for the FREEDOM for ALL from foreign Rule.

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      Scrapping the Human Rights Act and the ECHR doesn’t mean “rights being taken away” — indeed as I have argued, the HRA & ECHR are a threat to rights, not a guarantee of them. But I share your fear that a new “Bill of Rights” could have the effect of excluding some of the rights we have historically enjoyed.

  3. omanuel says:

    Chaos and fear of nuclear destruction in <bAug-Sept 1945 convinced world leaders to take totalitarian control of the world on 24 Oct 1945.

    My recommendation for escape from this Seventy-year Matrix of Deceit is a series of short papers for teachers of future generations:

    Click to access Introduction.pdf

    Your comments, corrections or criticisms would be appreciated.

  4. Ex-expat Colin says:

    As John Redwood said this morning on BBC R4:
    The notion that 3 million jobs will be lost is wrong if we left the EU, so we need to get on and leave. And we don’t need the advice of 16 or 17 year old to assist with that.

    Not sure why EU nationals are voting in our local elections? So if as a Brit you believed you had rights seems some foreigners can over rule you ..locally! There are fundamental errors all over this EU.

    Spain looks like its tipping.

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      The government proposes to exclude most non-British “EU Citizens” — but to include around 800,000 Irish citizens! (Despite the fact that they’ve already had an EU referendum!).

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Thats a curse, because they seem to need two goes to get a required result…..the wrong one a that!
        I’ll put it to a local Tory MP.

      • Anne says:

        Are those 800,000 Irish citizens from Northern Ireland-which are indeed part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or Southern Ireland? If the latter they obviously cannot be included in the UK Referendum surely? I doubt very much the Head of Southern Ireland (The Taoiseach) would agree to that. I would appreciate your thoughts on that?

  5. Linda Hudson says:

    Who dares to give me a few human rights, when I was already born free into a free country, and who’s laws were once in in tune with Christian values that are just, and fair if they are not abused.
    Britain who had habeas corpus ( innocent until proven guilty) What can replace such a wonderful, and good system, certainly not a few cobbled up human rights, by whoever!

    • David says:

      Nice one Linda, with you there. & Roger too, we must avoid replacing one bad policy with another fudge. Written by legal eagles so most of us cannot understand it.

    • Anne Palmer says:

      You have indeed reminded us Linda, that we were indeed born free-thank you for that, and never let it be forgotten either.

  6. David says:

    Whilst its not on topic, Can one of our wonderful spokes-persons, when next a liblabcon member says 3 million UK ( or whatever number they pick from the ether) citizens live/work in the EU, mention that the EU is 27 states, whilst they compare it to the number of immigrants who have arrived in ONE member state, ie divide their claimed figure by 27, That would be more accurate a comparison. That worried looking tim from the libdems said it yet again for the millionth time on QT last week, it needs debunking.

    • DougS says:

      You make a good point David – perhaps we could have equal numbers on a country by country basis. So if we have 25 Brits living in Romania, they can have 25 Romanians living in the UK!
      And the “….3.5 million jobs at risk…..” stupid claim that just won’t go away – instead of trying to argue against it why not just ask ‘how many jobs at risk in the EU 5 million or 6 million’?

  7. Anne says:

    Just a thought Roger. Reading The legal system of the European Union-as one does-I would appreciate your thoughts on this if you have time please? “A special law, based on the treaties, based on the treaties, which was formerly called acquis communautaire and now ”acquis of the EU”, is thus built to bring into being common policies, a law that is superimposed and takes precedence over national law, even the constitutional law, of the Member States, whether national legislation predates or postdates European legislation. In fact, according to the Court of Justice, the Member States have definitively transferred sovereign rights to the Community (and now the Union) they created, and they cannot subsequently go back on that transfer through unilateral measures [see Case 6/64], unless they decide to break away from the EU. If they do not opt for such a radical measure, they cannot contravene European legislation, to the making of which they have contributed, by invoking their national, even their constitutional law”.

  8. duyfken says:

    Although the English judiciary would not wish to engage in political debate, I expect it could give guidance. Should not representations be made to the LCJ and others of the bench to ascertain their views of the practical considerations to be addressed? Grieve is a lawyer and says leaving the ECHR would be disastrous, but is that a lawyer’s view or that of a politician?

  9. Anne says:

    I clearly understand WHY the ECHR came about, for many Country’s in the EU did not have, and some never have had the same RIGHTS that all of us in this Country have had for hundreds of YEARS. The same UK Citizen’s RIGHTS for 800 years- and we have been to war-twice in living memory-to protect them. We did not need the ECHR, although we have “embraced it” because we are in the now European Union. We do indeed have our own Bill of Rights 1689 along with the great Magna Carta. In my school days we were indeed taught about our Common Law Constitution, but then half the time we were indeed in the Air-Raid Shelters being heavily bombed. -Does anybody truly think another war will ‘not come to be’? How I wish and so truly wish, that NO UK Politician would reduce ANY of our Services re UK Army, UK Navy or UK Air-Force.

  10. DICK R says:

    I support the rights denied to British citizen who spend months in East European goals ,and the rights of parents persecuted across Europe for rescuing their child from the clutches of the NHS.
    All with the use of European Arrest warrants

  11. Richard111 says:

    Have a look at the link below and explain how ‘human rights’ work.

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