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Monday, February 14, 2011

Guilty could go free after latest vote in European Court of Human Rights

Guilty could go free after latest vote in European Court of Human Rights

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:14 AM on 14th February 2011

The Government is set for another clash with the European Court of Human Rights after it passed new plans that could see violent criminals freed.

The court has ruled that judges should not rely solely on written statements to convict defendants, even if victims and witnesses of crimes are too frightened to testify in court.

The move has been criticised by British judges and comes after MPs voted last week against the ECHR’s call for prisoners to be allowed the vote.

Controversial ruling: The European Court of Human Rights has ruled courts can not rely on written statements to convict offenders

The latest Strasbourg ruling declares that a fair trial is only possible if the defendant is permitted to cross-examine victims in court.

British judges say written evidence has been used to protect the victims of crime and includes safeguards to ensure defendants are justly treated.

They also fear the ruling could result in the overturning of convictions and a rise in compensation claims from suspected criminals.

Lord Phillips, president of the Supreme Court, said the ECHR judgement could see violent criminals and sex offenders being released from prison.

Warning: Supreme Court president Lord Phillips said the ECHR ruling could see criminals going free

‘Many guilty defendants will have to go free,’ he warned.

The ruling comes after British MPs rejected ECHR demands to give prisoners the vote.

The Council of Europe said it was ‘deeply disappointed’ by the defiance of Parliament and had expected better from one of Europe’s oldest democracies, which it said must ‘abide by its international obligations’.

Despite the outburst, David Cameron told colleagues he would rather pay compensation to prisoners banned from voting than try to pass legislation that had no chance of getting through the Commons.

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