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August 22, 2007

Scrapping the Human Rights Act

Err, do these people know what they're doing?

In his most explicit remarks on the legislation, Mr Cameron said: "It has to go. Abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, which sets out rights and responsibilities. The fact that the murderer of Philip Lawrence cannot be deported flies in the face of common sense.

The Human Rights Act is a British Bill of Rights, isn't it? It's simply the expression in British law of he European Convention on Human Rights....which, even if we repeal that specific Act still holds true. All that changes is that instead of using the British courts to get such rights enforced, people would have to use the European ones. Do correct me if I'm wrong, but that's the situation, isn't it?

Further, I'm not even all that sure that it's this Act that is the problem here. Isn't it, rather, EU law: the freedom of movement of people? As he's an EU citizen, we can't deport him (or even if we can, we can't stop him coming back)?

I know that a lot of politics is jumping on any passing bandwagon, but has this actually been thought through?

Aaah. In The Times.

Learco Chindamo has won the right to stay in Britain under a new law that gives him “higher protection” as an EU citizen, lawyers said.

The ruling makes clear that the decision to allow the killer of Philip Lawrence to remain in Britain is based primarily on EU law, not human rights law.

Chindamo, 26, an Italian who has been in Britain for about 20 years, has the higher protection afforded to all EU citizens against expulsion.

The level of protection increases according to the amount of time spent in Britain, but Chindamo lost the argument that his time spent in jail should count towards his British residency period - which would have brought him an even higher level of protection.

However, he won an argument under the Human Rights Act that he was entitled to respect for a family life and that removal in his case would be disproportionate. But this was secondary to his case under EU law. Under articles 27 and 28 of the EU Citizens Directive 2004, which took effect last year, an EU citizen can be expelled only on grounds of public policy, public security or public health.

So, bugger all to do with the Human Rights Act.

Is it too much to ask that Her Majesty's Opposition actualy be competent?

August 22, 2007 in Politics | Permalink


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Tracked on Aug 22, 2007 9:07:17 AM


Automatic deportation is unjust. It all depends on the circumstances. Someone who has lived in this country for decades who is deported to an alien country (albeit the country of their birth) is suffering additional extra-judicial punishment.

While I was in Canada I read of the case of a kid who came to Canada as a baby. At age 19 he's caught selling dope and the wheels of Canadian justice grind - and deport him to Africa. To a country where he knows no-one, speaks no local language. Is this just?

Once someone is released, they should be entitled to the opportunity to live a normal life. if they aren't safe to be given this opportunity, they aren't safe to be released at all.

Posted by: Kay Tie | Aug 22, 2007 9:51:09 AM

True, Kay Tie, though many would like a bit of extra-judicial punishment considering the seeming absence of judicial punishment. However, deportation to Africa for selling dope is excessive in the extreme.

Tim, yes, the Tories have as ever decided that another opportunity to embarrass themselves shouldn't be passed up; however, scrapping this human rights legislation is a good thing and if by trying to do that we highlight how little control we have over our rights by virtue of EU membership then that can only be a better thing. People think the EU is about borders and trade, but its grip tightens round the very essence of what makes us free.

Posted by: Philip Thomas | Aug 22, 2007 10:03:18 AM

"True, Kay Tie, though many would like a bit of extra-judicial punishment considering the seeming absence of judicial punishment."

It's hard to see how this murderer has been punished enough: he's not served a lot of time. But rather than smash up the protections we have from the increasingly psychotic and authoritarian state, I'd rather we adopted the simpler approach of properly punishing people in the first place.

Posted by: Kay Tie | Aug 22, 2007 10:07:56 AM

However, Philip, whilst this particular judgment may be based in EU membership, our adoption of the ECHR is not. I very much doubt that Cameron, or anyone else, would have the balls to withdraw from the European Convention which is entirely separate from EU membership.

But for me, in this case, one has to ask what the fuss is. Are people whose family members are murdered by British citizens somehow less well served by the justice system? It might be hard on Mrs Lawrence and her family, but as good Catholics they should know all about expiation, redemption and forgiveness. Any other murder victim's family has to face the possibility that one day they may come face to face, be in the same street, town, county as their relative's murderer. Where's the difference?

Posted by: Jock | Aug 22, 2007 10:33:51 AM

Jock, frankly, I'm not for deporting him, I'd prefer him locked up where I can keep an eye on him. The case just highlights what we can and can't do. Does membership of the EU require us to be a signatory of the ECHR? I thought it did.

Posted by: Philip Thomas | Aug 22, 2007 11:59:44 AM

No Philip, membership of the EU does not require us to be a signatory of the ECHR. The two sets up are entirely separate legal structures.

Posted by: Katherine | Aug 22, 2007 12:08:29 PM

Sorry, Catherine, yes it does. Not explicitly in the Treaty, but implicitly because of the Copenhagen criteria.

Posted by: Bondwoman | Aug 22, 2007 1:41:21 PM

So thus we come full circle to my original point (however, ignorant I was when I made it) that we can't leave the ECHR without leaving the EU. So what are the Conservatives really saying here?

Posted by: Philip Thomas | Aug 22, 2007 1:55:35 PM

It get worse. Today, I see the boy is up in Darwin rabitting on about yoof crime. He wants magistrates to dole out 12 month sentences. They already can.Has he not heard of a Detention and Training Order?

Posted by: Tony Hatfield | Aug 22, 2007 2:39:27 PM

"Is it too much to ask that Her Majesty's Opposition actually be competent?".

As you have covered the legal points, the short answer to your final point is


Posted by: jailhouselawyer | Aug 22, 2007 4:33:49 PM

The only Conservative who seems to understand these issues is Dominic Grieve, who made a very intelligent speech last year. I as a card-carrying liberal non-Tory don't find anything to disagree with. Find it here
He obviously understands that 'Scrap the HRA' is a red herring. But the EU directive is another matter entirely and it's an issue on which the government is on shakier ground.

Posted by: John Morrison | Aug 22, 2007 5:20:39 PM