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Friday, May 12, 2006 

Sun(Scum)-watch: End this human rights madness!

THE Sun today launches a proud campaign to put an end to the human rights madness that is horrifying the country.

We applaud David Cameron for pledging that the Tories would tear up crazy human rights laws, and we urge Tony Blair to get on and do it while he remains in power.

The whole concept of “human rights” in Britain has become a travesty under which the interests of killers, rapists and paedophiles are placed above those of their victims.

Law abiding citizens must walk in fear while “human rights” give their assailants the freedom of the streets.

Convicted thugs and murderers are set free too soon after derisory sentences.

Yet what is prison for, but to keep those who wish us harm locked away?

It is absurd for judges to shelter Afghan terrorists who hijack an aircraft at gunpoint.

It is scandalous that a dangerous rapist is freed from prison to kill because his human rights had been infringed.

But it is also ridiculous for Tony Blair to attack these decisions as an “abuse of common sense”.

Stupid as the rulings may be, judges are simply doing what they are told.

It was New Labour that enshrined the EU Human Rights Convention into British law — against advice.

It was Mr Blair — urged on by his human rights lawyer wife — who refused calls for existing laws of the land to take precedence.

Now Mr Blair is paying the price.

Voters are reacting to hideous crimes committed by thugs who should be behind bars.

And they are shocked by news that hundreds of criminals are on the loose instead of being deported as promised.

It is a tragic day when “rights” has become a dirty word.

But Mr Blair has the chance to put things right — not just for the country but also for his reputation.

He can reverse Labour’s mistake of 1998 and dismantle the Human Rights Act, putting Britain’s courts back in charge of British interests.

Along with his public services reform agenda, this would be a solid and worthwhile legacy before he leaves Downing Street.

The Sun will continue to expose human rights madness wherever we see it.

But what we want to see most of all is our Prime Minister taking the action all Britain is crying out for.

Where to even start? Well, maybe we should begin with what the Human Rights Act of 1998 actually says, or puts into law protections against.

What the Sun calls 'madness' and 'crazy' protects us and enshrines the right to the following:

See Article 2 up there? There's a reason it's at the top. It's the most important, and the one which takes precedent over all of the others. The Sun obviously considers that freedom of expression should be denied, which I'm sure would be fine by most of us if it only applied to the Sun newspaper. Otherwise we'd be rather up in arms.

But let's get back to the leader and the cases that it mentions. Apart from the one dealt with in the post below, which I'll also come back to, the other one mentioned is that involving Anthony Rice, a serial rapist who killed Naomi Bryant only nine months after being freed from prison. An absolute tragedy, no doubt about it. The report on the probation board behind his release stated the following:

But Mr Bridges said the failures in the Rice case had been exacerbated by two instances where parole and probation staff had allowed human rights considerations to undermine the importance of public protection. He particularly criticised the presence of a barrister pressing for the prisoner's release at the parole board hearing and said that staff "really have to be on top of a case" to get the balance right: "We are not saying it cannot be done right, but from our review I have to tell you that people clearly find it very difficult to do it right."

Rather damning isn't it? Yet Bridges goes on to say:
But he also warned that risk assessment of released prisoners was not completely a science, with the expected standards being met in only two-thirds of cases. Mr Bridges said that it was "bordering on the virtually impossible to predict" which 20 specific offenders out of the 15,000 higher risk prisoners released each year would strike again.

His inquiry report into the Rice case says there was a cumulative failure with "mistakes, misjudgements and miscommunications" at each of the three phases of his life sentence for rape and indecent assault, for which he served 16 years.

"Our conclusion is that there were deficiencies in the way he was supervised by probation and its partners in the multi-agency public protection agreement [Mappa], but he was too dangerous to be released into the community anyway."

Anthony Rice had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 1989. He had served 16 years when he was considered for release. Previously he had been jailed for 7 years for for rape and other indecent assaults, but the parole board did not have that information when it made its decision. The board did not check with the hostel where he staying about its regime, the conditions imposed on him while he was released turned out to be unenforceable, and a report on his progress on a sex-offender course was "over-optimistic".

So what aspect of the Human Rights Act was being broken by Rice's continued detention? Well, err, none really. Article 5 deals with the right to liberty and security, but it can be removed from someone if:

(a) the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court;

In other words, if someone has been convicted of crime and been given a sentence then they have to serve it. So why was Mappa criticised for taking Rice's human rights over the safety of the wider public? They had given his human rights too much consideration. As stated above, the number one right is the right to life. If someone poses a danger to someone else's life, especially if they have been sentenced to life in prison, then there is no way that person should be released. In short, it was the mistake of Mappa and not of the European Convention of Human Rights. Since Rice was first imprisoned, a person can now be sentenced to an indefinite time in jail, regardless of time limit if it is thought that they are a danger to the public. Unfortunately, this law is not retrospective, and in this tragic case Rice was wrongly allowed out of prison. If anything, all Mappa employees need retraining if they think that rights of a rapist sentenced to life in prison comes above the general public. His barrister, who shouldn't have been at the hearing in the first place, could then have appealed against their ruling.

On then to the Sun's next case for ridding us of this "human rights madness". This affects the Afghan hijackers, who on Wednesday were granted leave to remain, which is to be reviewed every six months. Since the judge's ruling, the government has said that it is to appeal. In fact, the men's appeal was based on the fact that the government themselves were refusing to accept the ruling of an immigration panel who had said they should be given leave to remain because if they were sent back to Afghanistan their lives would be at risk. In this, the Human Rights Act is regarded by judges as meaning that where there is a risk that their lives could be in danger if sent back to their original country, in this case Afghanistan, which is by no means safe and which in large parts is still controlled by regional warlords, even if they're elected warlords, then they should at least until the situation is resolved be allowed to stay in this country. Now, this can be argued against, and the government is doing just that by appealing against the decision. The whole case though is a waste of time; these were 9 men who were escaping from one of the most repressive and tyrannical regimes of recent decades, and who did so in the only way they felt they be able to succeed in doing so, in this case hijacking a plane. The men want to work and give back to this society for what it's so far done for them, but they are not allowed to because the government refuses to accept that they should stay. Isn't this a case of the government being in the wrong rather than being held to ransom by judges who are only biding by the law as they interpret it?

Indeed, the Sun seems to think so. It says judges are only doing what they are told - seeming to think the European Convention of Human Rights is a living, breathing thing. (They also confuse it as the EU Human Rights Act, which it is not. The European Convention was nothing to do with the EU.) It isn't. Only bad interpretations of the Human Rights Act value the rights of criminals above those of the law-abiding majority, as anyone who has read it can clearly see. It is that people, including those in power, have the impression that it gives rights which it patently does not. The other recent cases, such as those of John Monckton and Mary-Ann Leneghan, where the killers were on probation at the time, were nothing to do with the Human Rights Act. It was down to old fashioned human error, and the fact that as Bridges in his report states, that it is sometimes impossible to predict that someone who is on probation for drugs offences or assault is capable of murder or rape on the scale of that which Mary-Ann experienced. This is where the Sun mixes the two up. The Human Rights Act has nothing to do with how long offenders are sentenced for, or when they're considered for release on parole. That is down to the politicians and the legislators.

Then we get down to what the Sun really wants by doing away with the Human Rights Act. It starts by obscurely blaming Cherie Blair, the usual target of opprobrium for the tabloids when they've run out of other things to have a go at. Was the 1998 Human Rights Act enshrined (in 2000) against advice? Depends on whose advice you're referring to. The judges and lawyers were firmly in favour of it being enshrined, as it is as close as the country now actually has to a written constitution, instead of the swirl of all different legislation which is already on the statute books. It was the usual suspects who opposed it - the right-wing tabloids and the Tories, who by strange coincidence are now campaigning for it to be scrapped. Again, when the Sun mentions those that should have been deported, that was the failing of the Home Office, the Prison Service and the Immigration Service altogether. In the cases where the judges had ordered the deportation in the sentence, there is nothing that they can appeal against to stop them from being so, except the decision of the court in general. That they weren't is rightly a scandal, but not the fault of human rights legislation.

It soon becomes clear why the Sun has remained hostile to the legislation. Their opposition to the European Union itself is the overriding factor. It angers the Sun that if someone has appealed all the way to the House of Lords, that if even then their appeal is turned down, they can then turn to the European court in Strasbourg, which is the only court that can strike down a House of Lords verdict. Even then, the government can legislate, as the UK's laws override those of Brussels. The government also doesn't have to even listen to the courts' decision - in the case of indefinite detention without charge for foreign prisoners, which was ruled in breach of the Human Rights Act, the government doesn't and didn't have to free the suspects - but they did, coming up with control orders, which are as yet still in place, although criticised by a judge in one case. No, the Sun's motive for getting rid of the Human Rights Act is to send a message to Brussels that they are still against everything it stands for, and that includes all the measures which are in the Human Rights Act which no sane person would argue against. The Sun, like Blair, is only interested in quick fixes based on what it considers should be an outrage. The Sun seems to be suggesting putting a similar bill of rights into British law - what is the point when the Human Rights Act is already there and on the whole doing a fine job at protecting us both from criminals and from over-zealous government legislation?

Perhaps Rebekah Wade should look at this matter from another perspective. Consider the possibility that she was regarded as terrorist for her attacks on the government and given a control order. She'd rely on the Human Rights Act to free her from what amounts to near house arrest. The removal of the act would be the ultimate betrayal of this Labour government from its own original pledge to continue to be a progressive party. The Sun newspaper, with its distortions, claims to be the voice of the British people and rank hypocrisy on many measures (consider how a couple of years ago Wade printed a picture of child pornography alongside a work of art to show their "similarity"), should not be allowed to influence ministers into something that many in this country would never forget, just as many may well want it to be removed.

Update: Read the comments below for a typical example of News International using a law when it wants a decision overturned, then later decrying it in a fit of populist pique.

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of course, another Murdoch paper felt it necessary to use the Human Rights Act in the case of Lee Clegg (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/954759.stm). Seems like they are quite happy to use the act themselves when it is in their interest.

Hah! Got the bastards. I bet there's other instances of them using it as well that are yet to be discovered.

yeah, i'm sure there must be. i've been hunting around and i haven't found anything yet.

Great post though. I mentioned it at my site, but i didn't go into as much detail. I was tired, that's my excuse and i'm sticking to it!!

This is very interesting site...
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