Sunday, 11 October 2009

Scrap the Human Rights Act?

There is an interesting debate emerging on the center-right about the merits of replacing the Human Rights Act (HRA) with a British Bill of Rights (BoR). Phil Johnston makes the case for a BoR in the Daily Telegraph, whilst Peter Oborne defends the HRA in The Guardian.

Given the erosion of our bedrock freedoms under Labour - ID cards, innocent people on the DNA database, incursions on free speech, attacks on the role of the jury, attempts to prolong pre-charge detention etc - the case for a BoR is compelling.

But there is another dimension to this debate. The Sunday Telegraph today reports that the Home Office failed to deport at least 50 foreign criminals in the last year. The offenders blocked deportation using the HRA - most on the grounds that it would interfere with their family life. Under the European Convention on Human Rights, you cannot deport someone home to face torture. Yet, using the HRA, the UK courts have stretched the bar to deportation even further, to cover cases where it may disrupt a criminal's family life. As the House of Lords itself acknowledged, that goes well beyond anything required by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is a good illustration of the kind of practical situation, where a BoR could give Britain a better common sense balance when it comes to interpreting 'rights' - without requiring the UK to withdraw from the European Convention.


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