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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Votes for prisoners must be fought all the way

Votes for prisoners must be fought all the way

We believe the Government should refuse to accept the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights and if the court orders compensation to be paid, ministers should outlaw such payments.

By Telegraph View 7:31PM BST 13 Apr 2011

With an insouciance bordering on arrogance, the European Court of Human Rights has refused even to hear the Government's appeal against its ruling that British prisoners should be given the vote. Instead, it has given the Government a six-month deadline to change the law.

Rarely has there been a more blatant challenge to parliamentary sovereignty. This judgment has been handed down just two months after MPs voted by 234 votes to 22 to reject the ruling. So an unelected, unaccountable panel of judges drawn from countries across Europe, some of which have only the flimsiest judicial traditions, is not only defying the clearly expressed views of the House of Commons, but is also seeking to impose new legislation.

If the law is not changed in the way prescribed in Strasbourg, the court will order compensation payments to be paid to the 4,000-odd prisoners who claim that their human rights have been infringed by being deprived of the vote – a restriction that has always existed in Britain. The bill to the taxpayer could run to £150 million, but that would be just the first instalment: thousands more prisoners would undoubtedly climb aboard the bandwagon.

This is intolerable. When the ECHR first delivered its verdict, David Cameron said that it made him feel "physically sick", so we assume he is ready for a fight. Certainly, there could be no better ground to fight on. For years, sensible people have watched with mounting anger as the court has handed out judgments that pander to the rights of the criminal and the feckless at the expense of the law-abiding majority. It is time a line was drawn in the sand.

We believe the Government should refuse to accept this judgment. If the ECHR then orders compensation to be paid, ministers should bring forward legislation outlawing such payments. Two of our own most senior judicial figures have cleared the way for such unilateral action.

Comment: I did fight for prisoners votes all the way and won! It just goes to prove that we do not have a free press in this country when a newspaper is aware that the State has been found guilty of human rights violations and the newspaper encourages this kind of conduct. If Cameron was called Hitler no doubt the Telegraph would still be supportive.

It is a blatant lie for the Telegraph to claim that the Court refused to hear the UK's appeal. The UK had its appeal heard by the Grand Chamber in Hirst v UK (No2) and the UK lost its appeal.

The Court is not challenging Parliamentary sovereignty. The UK sacrificed some of this when it joined the Council of Europe. The backbench MPs had no lawful authority to reject the Court ruling, and the motion itself was unlawful. The judges at Strasbourg are elected whereas in the UK they are not.

What part of the UK being in the dock and found guilty does the Telegraph not understand? Under the Convention the UK is required to remedy the breach of human rights. If this involves amending legislation then that is what the UK must do.

What is intolerable is for a country to claim to be a democracy which it is not, and claim to support human rights which it does not.

The ECtHR first delivered its verdict in 2004. Nobody had even heard of David Cameron way back then. Anybody who has such a queasy stomach that a thought makes him physically ill is anything but ready for a fight. Bullies never are. With prisoners holding the legal ground and the high moral ground, fighting from a lawbreakers position and from the low moral ground is not firm ground to start a fight.

For too many years expenses fiddling MPs have stolen a living at the honest taxpayers expense. And, now those same MPs want to be exempt from paying taxes! The UK crossed the line when it chose to break the law and abuse human rights. MPs crossed the line when they fiddled their expenses. At least those in prison do not pretend to represent the electorate like these own-pocket-filling MPs.

This is not about the right of the British to make their own laws. Hitler's Germany made their own laws too! This is about the UK breaching human rights and being caught out and found guilty and is now having to pay the price. If the Telegraph had to pay out for taking this stance it would soon change its tune.

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