Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mr Blair Battles with the Judges

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mr Blair Battles with the Judges

Article excerpt

THE Prime Minister today follows his letters to the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor about reform of human rights law with a speech declaring that he intends to get to grips with the criminal justice system.

Mr Blair says it is "still the public service most distant from what reasonable people want".

Sometimes it seems that the Prime Minister has forgotten the extent and variety of his previous attempts over the past nine years to make the system work. There have been so many initiatives, from the ill-fated plan to march louts to cash machines to the "respect agenda", that a fresh bout of breastbeating is unlikely to cut much ice with the public.

Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, is plainly uncomfortable at having to deal with Mr Blair's attempts to give expression to public frustrations about crime and human rights legislation.

Yesterday he said "this is about making clear in particular areas - like, for example, the release of prisoners who might be a danger to society - that public safety comes first."

He probably had in mind the dreadful case of the release of Anthony Rice, a convicted rapist who went on to commit a murder, and it is indeed worth remembering that there was no reason why Mr Rice's human rights should have taken precedence over those of his victim. Very few human rights are absolute, and have to be balanced against the interests of public safety.

But establishing this principle does not require a raft of extra legislation. It simply means that public authorities have to use reasonable discretion. For instance, Mr Blair might turn his energy to making the probation service works properly. This does not require new laws - just that the system we already have should be properly run.

Chasing schools

LONDON parents yet again face a time of frustration and anxiety as the allocation of secondary school places approaches. As our report today shows, there are still simply too few places at schools with acceptable standards.

More than 2,000 families have failed to get a place at their chosen school - or any place at all. …

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