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Saturday, October 04, 2014

Fighting to preserve the Human Rights Act

For those of us horrified at the thought that a majority Tory Government might repeal the Human Rights Act the Times contains a handy guide to the legal howlers contained within the plan, courtesy of the previous Conservative Attorney General.

Dominic Grieve, QC, says that proposals outlined by Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, contain a series of factual “howlers” and are not properly thought through:

Mr Grieve said many of the concerns were based on “misunderstandings”, and there were already moves in train to reform the court from within. He also dismissed the idea that the UK could be granted a special status while the other states signed up to the convention had to abide by Strasbourg rulings.

“All courts are ultimately human constructs and they will sometimes get things right and sometimes get things wrong,” he told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“In many cases there is a misunderstanding of what the court does.

“Even the paper which has just been produced by my colleague Chris Grayling includes in it a number of howlers which are simply factually inaccurate.

“One howler is ... where it says that the court of HR in Strasbourg has prevented the imposition of whole life tariffs on whole life tariff prisoners in this country.

“It hasn’t. Its judgment never said that.

“On top of that we then took a case to the court of appeal, which I actually chose to take when I was AG, which found that our rules are completely compliant with what the court wants.

“Yet there it is in the paper which he has put out on behalf of the Conservative Party.”

Mr Grieve added: “It seems to me it is factually inaccurate in what it says, and that is unfortunate.

“Because if one is going to approach a complex subject I think it is very important that we should all collectively adopt a moderate and measured approach towards explaining what the issues are and what can and cannot be done.”

Mr Grieve said that Mr Grayling did not seem to have considered the problems presented by devolution in Scotland and the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.

“Both of them enshrine the requirement that the convention on human rights should be observed in Scotland and in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“I think it is right to say that, in the case of Northern Ireland, it is a requirement that ultimately people in NI can take cases to the ECHR.

“And yet Chris Grayling has just written a paper which makes no reference to this issue or how it can be solved.

“Of course the Westminster parliament is sovereign, we could change the law for Northern Ireland and Scotland.

“But I think that, in view of the way devolution has unfolded, that is something that would be a little bit difficult without consultation and I’m not aware that any consultation has taken place.”

Mr Grieve went on: “We have always been at the heart of developing human rights on the world stage. We have very high status worldwide in doing that and it is an inestimable benefit to large numbers people.

“The paper gives the impression of a retrenchment down to a very narrow focus indeed.

“The final irony is that, when we’ve done all these things and ended up with our own bill of human rights, 99 per cent of the decisions that will be taken by our own Supreme Court applying it, unless it wishes to get rid of human rights, would in fact be identical to those that you would get in Strasbourg.”

This is the problem when you let the Sun and the Daily Mail make policy for you.
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