Monday, February 21, 2011

Debate and poll on Britain's relationship with the ECHR

This debate has gone live this morning,

The poll questions are,
1) In your opinion, should the European Court of Human Rights be dictating law in Britain?

2) A future Bill of British Rights could block any intervention from the European Court of Human Rights, in principal would you be supportive of this?

3)What's your stance - Should sex offenders have the right to appeal their inclusion on the sex register?

So go on then, get voting.
This is my contribution,
Argument against

says Gawain Towler

When was the last time you heard somebody say ‘It’s a free country’ or maybe ‘There should be a law against it’?

Both were ever-present in people’s mouths as I grew up, but now seem jaded, dated, indeed redundant. Why?

Because it isn’t, and their probably is.

And this situation, where an old man can be arrested for fulminating against thugs throwing rocks at ducks, has arisen when we are told that we are living through a Human rights culture. CCTV cameras scan the sky and the roads, children are fingerprinted in school without parental permission, the government’s habit of restricting legal behavior, its hectoring of any who fail to enthusiastically support the new culture of so called tolerance. Something has gone awry in the way we are governed, and the laws which regulate our behaviour.

The last few weeks have seen the first shots in what looks like a long drawn out war between Britain and Europe on this. That these skirmishes are with the European Court of Human Rights rather than the European Union is of little import in the public debate, and within a year or so will be of little import overall as under Article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty will come into force making the European Court art of the institutional structure of the European Union.

The bottom line on the whole issue is who creates the law under which we in the UK are governed by?

UKIP believes and we believe that we are at one with the vast majority of the British people, that we as a nation should be the ones that set the legal parameters by which we are governed.

Ironically of course The European Convention and by extension the European Court of Human Rights were largely British creations. Forged in the vacuum left by the Second World War. To help a shattered continent and the peoples of the nations of Europe have the confidence necessary to build new democratic nations.

The original Convention guarantees uncontroversial things such as the right to a fair trial, not to suffer torture, against slavery, religion, expression, association and so on.

As the Law Lord, Lord Hoffman, former Director Amnesty International has put it recently,

“The brief list of human rights in the 1950 Convention… is, in general terms admirable. Who could object to the government having to respect the rights of its people not to be tortured or inhumanly treated, not to have their privacy invaded, to have a fair trial, or to be free to speak their minds and practice their religions. These freedoms are badge of a civilized society”

What is noticeable is that all of these rights are rights that the lucky British had already. We through didn’t of luck, geography and traditions not succumbed to a dictatorship during the thirties, and therefore did not feel that the Convention was much to do with them Indeed it was felt that what was going on was to bring the continent up to our level.

Scroll forward to 2011 and in a few short months we have seen a series of rulings that rebel against the very gut of the British people. The instruction to give convicted prisoners the vote, the removal of the right of vulnerable victims of crime to give written evidence, the right of appeal for sex offenders to remove themselves from the sex offenders register and most recently the right of the longstanding criminally insane to receive income support and pensions.

And this is just now, with every year the European Court, a Court where judges from such paragons as Russia and Moldova, through its inherent political activism appropriates power over our country.

And here is the nub, as Lord Hoffmann goes on,

“Since the Convention Rights were incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998, the UK courts have followed in the wake of Strasbourg, loyally giving effect to its rulings and the principles (where discernable) laid down in its jurisprudence. The result has been that UK judges have reached decisions, sometimes with regret and sometimes with enthusiasm which would have astonished those who agreed to our accession to the Convention in 1950”.

The only way to untangle ourselves from this production line of judgments that fail to chime with the people of the country is to leave the ECHR and to create, or maybe recreate our own system of liberties.

Now as I have suggested neither I nor anybody else is suggesting that many of these liberties we hold should or would be thrown out with our membership of the Convention. Nobody is suggesting that the people of our country would be bereft of protection from the agents of the state.

I do not believe that we can defend our own liberties without leaving the convention, as they are constantly under threat. We must create a system of our own Liberties, perhaps in recasting of the Bill of Rights that since 1689 has guaranteed many of the rights we saw earlier.

It cannot be beyond the wit of this country to come up with a system of rights and liberties far superior than those offered by our continental friends. Rights and Liberties that will set out simply the limits of the state, and the realm in which the individual citizen may continue in his or her life unmolested by its agents.

No comments: