This Insult to OUR Human Rights

Article excerpt

Byline: MELANIE PHILLIPS

NOT for the first time, human rights judges have lost the plot. This court ruling is both ludicrous and offensive. Anyone who is removed from society because of the seriousness of the crime they have committed automatically forfeits the rights of that society, including the right to a say in how it is governed. They have put themselves outside the law and its privileges. This is a principle which goes back many hundreds of years.

If prisoners are given a say in society's laws while themselves being literally outlawed, it makes a mockery of the whole nature of punishment and undermines respect for both the rule of law and the concept of citizenship.

Voting is not a basic element of human dignity. Indeed, the universal franchise is a relatively recent development. The vote is granted to individuals as a symbol of citizenship. In turn, citizenship requires obligations by citizens - the first and foremost of which is the duty to obey the law.

But now, instead of an individual's primary obligation to the state, human rights law turns this upside down by imposing a duty on the state to give people their rights.

So human rights law has decreed that prisoners have rights to TV, porn magazines, correspondence or to get married. Since the Convention says the essential aim of prison is 'reformation and social rehabilitation', it surely cannot be long before the court rules that punishment itself is illegal!

It is no surprise that yesterday's ruling undermines the essence of citizenship. For the judges - some from countries which boast a less than glorious history of human rights or democracy - arrogate to themselves the right to tell our Parliament what to do.

As the five dissenting judges pointed out, the court went far beyond interpreting the Convention. By extending its scope and meaning, it assumed the role of legislator and interfered in the business of national parliaments.

Not merely has the court attacked democracy, but its thinking is also flawed. Contrary to its claim that the British parliament had not properly thought through such a ban, the issue has, in fact, been considered many times in Westminster.

Now the Government is trying to minimise the effect of the ruling by saying that it might only be prisoners who have been convicted of less serious offences who will be allowed the vote.

This might mean that convicted burglars could vote - while murderers, armed robbers or rapists could not.

But this would diminish the sense of disapproval that society signals when a burglar is jailed. …