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Monday, February 07, 2011

The lunatics are trying to take over the asylum

The lunatics are trying to take over the asylum

Johannes Hauptmann, Gustav Hauptmann, or Gerhart Hauptmann? Nein! It's Lord Hoffman.

Lord Hoffmann says Britain must think about quitting European court over issue of prisoner voting

by Jason Beattie, Daily Mirror 7/02/2011

Britain should threaten to withdraw support for the European Court of Human Rights over the issue of prisoner voting, a retired Law Lord said.

MPs will decide whether to bow to the court or risk being sued for millions by prisoners if they deny them the vote this week.

But Lord Hoffmann said it was a touchstone issue and Parliament should stand up to Europe.

He said: “The Strasbourgh court has taken upon itself an extraordinary power to micromanage the legal systems of member states… culminating in its decision that the UK is not entitled to have a law that prisoners lose the right to vote.”

MPs will get a free vote on the issue on Thursday.

Pull out of human rights court, says ex-Law Lord

By Oliver Wright

Monday, 7 February 2011

A former Law Lord and director of Amnesty International will call on the Government today to withdraw Britain from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.

In a surprising intervention, Lord Hoffmann, who has been a leading judicial advocate for human rights for over 25 years, warns that the phrase has become a "byword for foolish decisions by courts and administrators". His views will be seized upon by Conservative backbenchers who have always disliked the court and are furious at its recent ruling that Britain must give prisoners the vote.

Lord Hoffmann himself cites the prisoner voting issue as an example of the way the Strasbourg court has taken "extraordinary power to micromanage the legal systems" of the member states which needs to end.

Writing the introduction to a report by the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, Lord Hoffmann laments: "Since 9/11 there have been enough real and serious invasions of traditional English freedoms to make it tragic that the very concept of human rights is being trivialised by silly interpretations of grand ideas."

Lord Hoffmann argues that the list of human rights enshrined in the 1950 European Convention, which now forms part of British law, is "admirable". But he says that since then they have been misinterpreted by judges in Strasbourg to such an extent that they have become discredited.


Monday February 7,2011
By Alison Little, Deputy Political Editor

BRITAIN should try to escape the clutches of the European Court of Human Rights and insist the final decision on any case is decided here, an influential think-tank will urge today.

The radical report for the Policy Exchange calls for the UK to review how well the court in Strasbourg performs over the next two years.

If it fails to show any progress in its efficiency or in the competence of its judges, we should consider pulling out.

Britain’s own Supreme Court would then become the final arena for cases brought by Britons under the European Convention of Human Rights, which would continue to be part of British law.

The Daily Express has been at the forefront of calls for Britain to extricate itself from the powers of the Strasbourg court.

It has forced unpopular judgments on Britain and cost taxpayers millions when cases that have failed in this country are taken there. The Policy Exchange report was written by Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, a human rights and constitutional expert.

He said: “Contrary to what has been stated by some opponents of such a reform, there is strong evidence to suggest that the UK’s membership of the EU and Council of Europe does not require continued adherence to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights should the UK opt for such a withdrawal.”

The analysis was welcomed by retired senior law lord and human rights expert Lord Hoffmann, who said that the move was “worth a try”.

“International institutions which are set up by everyone become in practice answerable to no one,” he wrote in the report’s foreword.

“And courts have an age-old tendency to enlarge their jurisdictions.

“So the Strasbourg court has taken upon itself an extraordinary power to micro-manage the legal systems of the member states of the Council of Europe, or at any rate those which pay attention to its decisions.”



MPs have a vital chance this week to strike a blow for freedom by declaring that Parliament is our supreme lawmaker, not faceless, unelected and unaccountable judges from Europe.

They must not continue to let us down, for this is a crucial moment after decades in which feebleness has allowed too much power to be eroded from our democratic process.

A Daily Express survey shows the majority of MPs are prepared to support the vote to block the disgraceful attempt by the European Court of Human Rights to allow prisoners to vote. Individual conscience will dictate which way MPs will go but there are still party issues at stake.

Before the election the Tories promised to rescind the Europe‑inspired Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.

This week can see the Tories take a bold first step towards that goal. For Labour and the Lib Dems, kowtowing yet again towards Europe on an issue that the public so strongly opposes would be political suicide.

The message to MPs is clear: unite and be strong. Don’t give in to political blackmail. Show the European court who governs Britain. What would the court do – fine us? Let them – we wouldn’t have to pay. Instead we could tear up this ludicrously ill thought out Act and start afresh. What a wonderful day that would be.

Our MPs have a great responsibility this week that they must not shirk. In the words of one great man who stood up to European oppression, the country expects every man to do his duty.

Judgment day looms on human rights law

Published Date: 07 February 2011

By David Bentley and Gareth Rose

The UK should withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unless the Strasbourg court can significantly reform within two years, an influential think-tank has said.

The centre-right Policy Exchange called for the UK to open negotiations over the efficiency of the ECHR and the "judicial competence" of the judges.

When the ECHR ruled in 2008 that a conviction against Yusuf Salduz, in Turkey, should
be quashed because he did not have access to a lawyer while being questioned, it paved the way for a ruling that fundamentally affected Scots law.

Lawyers for Peter Cadder, now 20, from Glasgow, who had been convicted of two assaults and a breach of the peace, used the same argument to win him the right to appeal at the Supreme Court.

That ruling last year made almost 3,500 convictions unsound in Scotland. All suspects are now given immediate access to a lawyer, and ministers doubled the length of time suspects can be held without charge.

The ECHR has also ruled that prisoners "slopping out" or being denied the right to vote was a breach of their human rights. Slopping out compensation cases have already cost the Scottish Government millions.

Lawyers warn more writs will follow if prisoners are denied the rights to vote in May's Holyrood elections. The issue will be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday.

The Policy Exchange's recommendations are endorsed by former law lord Lord Hoffmann, who wrote in the foreword to the report.

"International institutions which are set up by everyone become in practice answerable to no-one, and courts have an age-old tendency to try to enlarge their jurisdictions," he said.

• Euro rulings that strike at the heart of Scots law

"And so the Strasbourg court had taken upon itself an extraordinary power to micromanage the legal systems of the member states of the Council of Europe (or at any rate those which pay attention to its decisions] culminating, for the moment, in its decision that the UK is not entitled to have a law that convicted prisoners lose, among other freedoms, the right to vote."

The Policy Exchange report, written by Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, recommended that the UK should open negotiations with the Council of Europe to make "substantial reforms to the way that the court is run and its caseload managed".

"Such reforms would include new procedures to assure the judicial competence of new judges and the greater efficiency of the court," he said.

"If such negotiations are unsuccessful, the UK should consider withdrawing from Strasbourg and establishing the Supreme Court as the final appellate court for human rights law."

UK 'should cut links to European Court of Human Rights'

The government should cut its ties with the "expansionist" European Court of Human Rights, says a report by a right-leaning think tank.

The Policy Exchange report says the recent row over prisoners' voting rights highlights the issue.

The report, written by a former government adviser, Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, says the UK has become "subservient" to the Strasbourg court.

He says it also ignores the traditional British freedom of the press.

The report claims the 47 Strasbourg judges have "virtually no democratic legitimacy" and are poorly qualified compared to Britain's own senior judges.

Lord Hoffman, a former Law Lord, who wrote the foreword to the report, said Strasbourg has "taken upon itself an extraordinary power to micromanage the legal systems of the member states".

The report says the ECHR is a "virtually unaccountable supra-national bureaucracy".

The row over voting rights for prisoners was sparked by a judgment from the ECHR in 2005.

The court upheld an appeal by convicted killer John Hirst, who said Britain had breached the European Convention on Human Rights by disenfranchising him.

The judgement meant the UK government was forced to allow prisoners to vote but has tried to limit it to those who were sentenced to less than four years in jail.

Blair Gibbs, Head of Crime and Justice at Policy Exchange, said: "Votes for prisoners has brought to public attention the growing conflict between judges and the wishes of our own elected parliament.

'Strayed beyond remit'

"On this issue, judges in Strasbourg have strayed well beyond their remit and have casually trampled on the rights of Parliament and the role of MPs to decide these essentially political questions.

"The public favour such cases being decided in the UK, not by foreign judges sitting in a remote court."

Policy Exchange says the court represents "worthy ideals" but is not "fit for purpose" and requires "substantial reform".

If improvements are not made within two years, says the report, the government should consider withdrawing from its jurisdiction in order to prevent UK citizens lodging appeals in Strasbourg.

Our correspondent says the prevailing legal wisdom has been that severing ties with Strasbourg would jeopardise Britain's commitment to human rights laws and its membership of the Council of Europe and the EU.

But the report says there is "strong evidence" from legal experts that this would not be the case.

Lord Hoffman writes: "In the last few years, human rights have become, like health and safety, a byword for foolish decisions by courts and administrators.

"The tendency has been to say that there is nothing to be done. We are stuck with the Convention and the European Court of Human Rights and unless we are willing to cast ourselves as a pariah state and get expelled from the European Union, we must accept the court's jurisdiction.

"But Mr Pinto-Duschinsky shows that the situation is not so hopeless and there are means by which, with sufficient support from other states in the Council of Europe, we can repatriate our law of human rights. It is worth a try," he adds.

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