Let's Quit the European Court of Human Rights Says Ex-Justice Minister

Daily Mail (London), November 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Let's Quit the European Court of Human Rights Says Ex-Justice Minister


Byline: James Slack and Jack Doyle

A FORMER minister called on Britain to quit the European Court of Human Rights yesterday as the Government made its latest attempt to calm the bitter row over prisoner votes.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling published a draft Bill containing three options for resolving the UK's stand-off with Strasbourg.

These were giving votes to inmates who have been jailed for up to four years, for up to six months or, crucially, maintaining the UK's existing blanket ban.

Mr Grayling is establishing a joint committee of MPs and peers to scrutinise each of the proposals - a move which could delay the decision until 2014.

But Nick Herbert, who stood down as justice minister in September, said the draft Bill would 'merely kick the can down the street'.

The Tory MP called for decisive action to 'end the writ of the European Court'. He said: 'That would enable Parliament and our own courts to strike a balance between rights and responsibilities, with respect for the democratic will.

'We shouldn't defy the European Court of Human Rights - we should resign from it altogether.' Britain is free to walk away from the court, provided it gives six months' notice. However, it would provoke howls of protests from the Lib Dems. The Government had been given until today by Strasbourg to respond to a 2005 ruling that it is unlawful to ban all convicted prisoners from voting.

David Cameron and a string of senior ministers have made plain their disgust at the idea of giving rapists, murderers and robbers the vote. Mr Grayling is hoping to end the stand-off - or at least buy more time - by giving MPs a fresh vote. But some MPs fear Strasbourg will not be satisfied and will order Britain to make compensation payouts to inmates who claim their 'human rights' have been breached.

An estimated 3,000 prisoners are lining-up to claim a windfall from the taxpayer of around [pounds sterling]1,000 each.

In a Commons statement, Mr Grayling suggested he could block prisoners getting access to legal aid to help them mount their legal challenges.

However MPs fear that will not prove a deterrent to 'ambulance chasing' lawyers who are prepared to offer services on a no-win, no-fee basis.

Labour said it did not want any inmates to have the vote. But it was immediately clear the Coalition is split over the issue. Lord McNally, a Liberal Democrat justice minister, indicated he is in favour.

Dominic Grieve, the Tory Attorney General, has himself warned Britain could become a 'pariah' if it does not obey Strasbourg. …

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