While wholeheartedly agreeing with Parliament's decision to defy the European Court of Human Rights on the question of votes for prisoners, it's impossible not to think that this is a very dangerous precedent.
The European Court of Human Rights has done much good for the people of the United Kingdom over the past 60 years. It has allowed gay people in Northern Ireland the right to be gay. One need not approve of homosexuality in principle to agree with the idea that it should be permissible in civil society.
On a personal note, it banned the practice of corporal punishment in schools. Having been subjected to a class-wide belting at the age of nine, an ignoble exercise in the use of brute force on the weak, the ECHR's decision to abolish it has no firmer supporter than myself.
One can cavil at the wisdom of the passing of the Human Rights Act. HRA was intended to make the remedies capable of being delivered by the European Court of Human Rights capable of being delivered by every court in the land. In principle, it was a brilliant idea. In practice, it has turned into a nightmare, a law abused by greedy and unprincipled lawyers. It may have been intended to be used as a scalpel, but has instead been wielded like a broadsword. One can also question the wisdom of allowing Clitheroe Magistrates Court all the powers of the House of Lords (RIP); under HRA, the whole idea of having appeal courts has, to a greater or lesser extent, become meaningless, with appeals instead becoming transformed into exercises in second guessing what the European Court of Human Rights either might or might not do when faced with the same case.
However, what is unusual about today's vote is that this is the first time I can ever think of that Parliament has decided to deliberately snub a treaty obligation. If it can do it for votes for prisoners, can it do it in respect of any other treaty obligation, such as those created by those treaties which created the European Union, and those which created its predecessors?
Yes it can!
Labels: The Blogger's Deepest Thoughts