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Human Rights and Cat Fights - The Calls for Reform Must not be Silenced

Posted: 10/10/11 01:00

It would be, to coin a phrase, child-like to summate the debate around the Human Rights Act as one between those in favour of protecting human rights in law, and those against doing so.

The Human Rights Act has clearly had unintended consequences. Over creative judges, not grounded in the British legal tradition, have extended the scope of a law meant to protect against the very worst of humanity to defend those who do not value it at all.

Indeed, Strasbourg's judiciary have taken a view - as recognised by numerous legal scholars -that the Convention is a 'dynamic' instrument, and where questions of interpretation or scope arise they take a liberal approach to applying the Convention. The intent of the legislators who drafted the convention is not of paramount concern, in stark contrast to our domestic system where Parliament's will is of real importance.

This approach has led to many of the worst examples of judicial legislating, extending the scope of the Convention far beyond the vision of the drafting parties and I would argue far beyond the expectations of the Labour politicians who backed the Human Rights Act. Their experience of terrorist deportations is just one area where they faced practical and political difficulties, and let us not forget that the votes for prisoners case was ruled upon in 2005, only to be launched into the long grass with gusto.

The Conservative Party broadly agrees there is a need for change. David Cameron and Theresa May have both indicated they are not happy with the law as it stands. Ken Clarke accepted the law often benefits 'unpleasant people.' However, we live in interesting times and it will be the Deputy Prime Minister who receives the findings of a Government review into the case for a British Bill of Rights.

This review is of immense significance, given the legal standing of the Human Rights Act. The need for reform is clear, the way forward less so and this review will be the first part of exploring what can be done to address the growing imbalance between the human rights of those before the courts, and the civil liberties of those who are not.

Many expect Nick Clegg to vocally defend the status quo. Yet he hasn't had to utter one word and already the debate in the Conservative party has been shut down to save face. If a badly researched anecdote is the last we hear of the debate to reform a malfunctioning law, our political classes are failing the society they were elected to defend.

 

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