Posts tagged ‘ECHR’

Who Rules?

On Thursday the House of Commons partook of a discussion and division on the issue of voting by convicted prisoners. The result of this vote is not binding on the government being as it was simply a backbench motion allowing members to express an opinion on a matter that has yet to be formally presented to the house by the government. In the free vote that followed the debate the motion was passed by 234 to 22. A roll of honour/list of shame* is available. Those on the government payroll and the Labour front bench abstained.

That the matter was under discussion is the ‘work’ of John Hirst, a thug convicted of the manslaughter** of his landlady with an axe, who sued the UK under the Human Rights Act because he was not allowed to vote whilst he was detained at Her Majesty’s (dis-)pleasure. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in his favour and asked the UK government to look again at the issue.

Predictably there has been a lot of outrage at the thought of the likes of Hirst being allowed to play a part in democratic elections whilst in gaol with one opinion poll putting support for the idea at only 9%. David Cameron has been widely quoted as saying that the idea makes him ‘physically sick’.

The whole issue however is somewhat of a red herring, a trifling concern. According to the most recent breakdown of figures that I could find (2010-08) there are 31,630 convicted people in prison serving 4 years or less (excluding under 18’s and fine defaulters but including the unsentenced). By the same criteria there are only 11,433 serving less than 12 months. Those numbers aren’t enough to form a constituency of their own. Split evenly across the 600 constituencies (come the 2015 election) that equates to 53 or 19 each (assuming an even split). Those sort of numbers aren’t going to affect the outcome of a general election.

Rather the issue here is one of sovereignty: is Parliament – elected by the population of the UK – supreme or does an external institution take precedence? MPs like to maintain that they are still in charge – and today’s vote has no doubt resulted in lots of back slapping amongst the Eurosceptic wings of the big parties – but they aren’t and haven’t been so for some time.

Unless Cast Iron Dave uses the result to find himself a spine and finally gives the public the in or out referendum*** that all of the big three political parties have offered at one time or another then it is meaningless. Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has already said that the UK would ‘do the minimum necessary in order to comply’ with the ruling and something tells me that said stance will not have been altered by what went on today.

It would be nice to hope that this is the straw that finally broke the back of the proverbial camel but I doubt it. Our elected representatives are, generally, too wedded to the idea of further political and economic integration no matter what the cost. Indeed I doubt that many of them realise that the PR exercise which is the Referendum Lock promised by the collation government will have no affect on the ongoing transfer of sovereignty to European bodies.

* Delete according to your belief.

** During the debate various MPs referred to him in other terms but unlike them this blog is not protected by parliamentary privilege and therefore cannot be so blunt.

*** Yes, I am well aware that the ECHR is a Council of Europe body, not a European Union one but given the amount of overlap that exists between the two and being aware that provisions exist on both sides for integration, withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights would (hopefully) mean expulsion from both entities as membership of each requires the the Convention to be ratified.

On Max Mosley, Sex and Privacy

The FT on Friday carried an interview with the former head of the FIA, Max Mosley, ostensibly to discuss his case in the European Court of Human Rights regarding the right to privacy – a follow up to his victory in the High Court against News Group Newspapers Limited.

As I’m sure most of us remember the case made headlines thanks to the ‘unconventional’ nature of the sexual acts that were going on and the Nazi imagery which the News of the World falsely claimed was present – imagery which of course had added spice given who Mosley’s father was.

Although I personally couldn’t care less what Mosley – or anyone else for that matter – does for pleasure so long as all of the parties involved are willing participants it would seem that I am in the minority. The old adage that ‘sex sells’ is still a true one as, for a country with a supposedly liberal attitude to sex, there is indeed a good deal of school yard tittering that goes on whenever someone is revealed to have tastes that extend beyond the missionary position with the curtains closed and the lights out. The only weird thing to me is the prurient fascination with what other human beings do for pleasure – though I suppose it can probably be considered second- or third-hand voyeurism.

Our interviewer here seems to be of the majority persuasion however as she candidly admits that one of the questions she wanted to ask was ‘Why was MM drawn to S&M?’ Is the question even relevant given the matter at hand? No but it doesn’t stop her asking it or indeed trying to draw a link between his BDSM activities and his slightly odd childhood. Kudos to Mosley though for managing to respond to the attempts to define his activities as strange in a matter of fact way

I think it’s like being homosexual. It’s a quirk in your character. People have to be adult and simply say, well it’s sex and sex is very strange. Even ordinary sex is either very funny or disgusting, or both. That’s how it is, we’re animals in the end.

even though he says later on that

It’s embarrassing to talk about. I feel that sex should always be private. If people hear that so-and-so does such and such, the reaction shouldn’t be: Oooooh! It should be: Oh, for God’s sake that’s sex, don’t even discuss it.

Although not agreeing with Mosley that sex should be a taboo subject I am, as I have said, in agreement with him when it comes to not being interested in what strangers do for fun. The only time it is relevant is when they are guilt of hypocrisy by saying one thing and doing the opposite.

Not though content with letting sleeping dogs lie Mosley has filed an application with the ECHR claiming that his rights where violated because the News of the Screws did not have a legal duty “to notify him in advance in order to allow him the opportunity to seek an interim injunction and thus prevent publication”.

This is where I have a problem.

I can see why, given the media in the UK, people would want a strong privacy law. But does the problem entirely lie with the media? There is apparently no shortage of prominent or ‘famous’ people who are willing to invite the press into almost every aspect of their lives (often in return for money) because they want the resulting publicity that it brings. Can we therefore fault journalists for taking the logic step of digging into the lives those in similar positions who aren’t media hungry because they believe – rightly it seems – that such stories are wanted by the section of the populous what care X, Y or Z get up to in their private lives?

Does then an individual have a right to privacy, to not have salacious details of their lives that they did not themselves reveal spread across various newspapers and magazines? No, I do not think that they do. A privacy law means that state force is being used to suppress information – however irrelevant it may be – and that goes against Libertarianism as I see it.

If a publication however prints false or malicious allegations then the subject of their hatchet job has every right to sue. The only shame is that it is can be expensive and time consuming to do so as a recent piece over on Anna’s and some of the comments it generated showed.

In the long run the only way I see things changing is when people finally grow up and stop encouraging such behaviour by not purchasing the papers and magazines involved.

Given the falling circulation figures for the dead tree press it seems we are, perhaps, heading in the right direction.

What Laws?

My eye having been caught by the headline “Thousands could sue over ‘child protection’ sackings” in the Telegraph online this afternoon I decided to read the article.

It turned out to be about three nurses who, dismissed from their jobs because they failed checks run by the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), are now suing for loss of earnings in a ECHR test case that could result in others in similar situations doing the same thing. Although it is using up taxpayers money, I can’t say I blame the three of them because the ISA was a bloody stupid idea in the first place.

It was these two paragraphs however that caught my attention:

The three nurses bringing the case all lost their jobs following minor offences which were not deemed serious enough to go to court, but which resulted in them being handed police cautions.

One of the nurses broke the law by leaving her 11-year-old son at home alone while she went shopping. Another was cautioned because while he was at work, his wife left the couple’s children alone for a short period. The third kissed a colleague without permission.

These things are offences? Really? Since when? Should I be reporting my own parents as I and my brother were left home alone at times when we were both still under 11? Should I be reporting my colleagues from the Italian office who always greet myself and the other ladies in the team with a kiss when they visit? I think not.

According to the report other people effectively dismissed from their jobs by this government quango include:

…a mother was cautioned for child neglect after leaving her three-year old son in the care of her responsible 14-year-old son while she popped to the shops.

…another mother was cautioned for child neglect after leaving her three children in the care of a seemingly responsible neighbour, a grandmother, while she took a relative to the airport. The neighbour left the children on their own for a while and the mother was barred from taking up a place on a nursing course.

…Rachael Parry, from Caerphilly, south Wales, was cautioned for leaving her daughter alone in the bath for a minute and a half when she went downstairs to get towels. She returned to find her daughter face-down in the bath. She gave mouth-to-mouth to revive her daughter and took her to hospital, where she made a full recovery, but although police and social services recognised that she was a loving mother who had made a terrible mistake the CPS ordered that she be given a caution.

Strewth, if they are setting the bar this low I don’t know how anyone with children will be allowed to work with other children or vulnerable adults as so far as I can see these are all things that have been going on since time immemorial. Is there a child out there who has never been left at home alone even for one second, never been left in the bath alone, never been left with an older kid (e.g. a baby sitter)?

Evidentially the High Court agreed because they ruled the treatment of the three nurses in question to be unlawful.

How many people have been affected by the heavy handiness of the ISA? 13,150 last year alone – of whom 812 have had their bans overturned. That is a failure rate of over 6% and one that is likely to grow.

Any chance we can just shut down this useless waste of money and get back to some common sense?