Coffee House

Nick Herbert calls for Britain to quit the European Court of Human Rights

22 November 2012

The prisoner voting issue is threatening to bring the whole issue of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights to a head. It is almost impossible to see how the Strasbourg court can be satisfied without the ending of the ban on all prisoners voting, while it is hard to see parliament ever agreeing to that. Cabinet Ministers concede that the government’s current efforts are about buying time more than anything else. (For more on the legal questions that arise from this matter, see David’s post on the subject.)

Leaving the jurisdiction of the Court is fast becoming the mainstream position in the Tory party. In an interview with The Spectator this week, Nick Herbert—the former Home Office and Justice minister—warns that the current Tory position of remaining under the court’s jurisdiction but with a British Bill of Rights will change little as there’ll still be the individual right of appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Instead, he wants to leave the jurisdiction of the Court. As he puts it—not unreasonably, ‘We’ve created a Supreme Court in this country, why can’t it be supreme?’

There is, though, a human roadblock to this reform: Dominic Grieve. The Attorney General is a passionate defender of the Strasbourg Court and as long as David Cameron keeps him in place it is hard to believe that the Tory party really is preparing to be radical about this.

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  • MichtyMe

    We won’t be alone, there is Belarus.

  • damnedfilth

    Nick Herbert is a very, very sexy man

  • Nick Kaplan

    Those who support the ECHR constantly tell us that it is distinct from the EU. Now as far as I’m aware there is specific legislation (the European Communities Act 1972) which gives EU Law and rulings of the ECJ precedence over UK law (including acts of parliament). However I know of no equilavent Act giving precedence to rulings of the ECHR (The Human Rights Act 1998 deliberately leaves parliament as soverign, empowering the courts to make ‘declarations of incompatibility’ but not to strike down any statute). So, on what legal basis is it suggested that either the government or parliament is in any way bound by a ruling of the ECHR on votes for prisoners?

    • Vulture

      If it’s distinct from the EU as we’re told, how come the ECHR judges wear the EU’s flag on their robes?

  • Colonel Mustard

    Every cloud has a silver lining. In this case a good excuse for Cameron to boot Grieve out. Too much to hope he might boot Starmer out while he’s at it to purge our rotten “justice” system.

  • Chris

    It is obscene that a British politician thinks it would be OK for Britain to abandon the most basic internationally accepted standards of decency and human rights. The conservatives should ban Nick Herbert.

    • Colonel Mustard

      It’s neither internationally accepted nor a standard. It’s a court. Britain had a perfectly good relationship with the ECHR for nigh on 50 years until New Labour created these supremacy issues by incorporating it by statute into British law, an act of stupendous folly with all the unintended consequences that are ever the outriders of socialist inspired law. The approach can be summed up as “Break what isn’t broken and then fix it with something worse”.

      Abandon! Ha! What sad flakes you people are, inhabiting an emotive world of complete bunkum and nonsense.

    • Ian Walker

      Please explain how you get from “Leaving the ECHR” to “abandon the most basic internationally accepted standards of decency and human rights?” A rather perfect example of petitio principii, or “begging the question” in it’s proper sense.

      • Chris

        Perhaps you’d like me to explain how Tuesday follows Monday while I’m at it? The European Convention on Human rights is the most basically accepted standard of decency and human rights, drawn up largely at the insistence of Britain.

        You either believe that torture, imprisonment without trial and so on are OK, as Nick Herbert obviously does, or you don’t.

        • Colonel Mustard

          How typical of you to take the most extreme examples to make the highly charged and emotive case that dodges Mr Walker’s question. This is not about the Convention but the rulings of its court.

          How can debate ever be accomplished as long as “you people” resort to hyperbole every time your dogma is challenged?

        • Ian Walker

          You still don’t explain why leaving the jurisdiction ECHR means that we automatically abandon those notions?

          I don’t need a judge in Strasbourg to tell me personally what is and isn’t morally acceptable, and I suspect that Britain as a nation doesn’t either.

        • Tim Reed

          Sure – because before we signed up to the ECHR the UK had absolutely no history whatsoever of civil/human rights – an almighty hellhole lacking any ‘standards of decency’.

        • Fergus Pickering

          What a silly post. Are you suggesting that the British Government before the setting up of th ECHR believed in torture and imprisonment without trial and so on, whatever the so on is referring to. More specifically are you suggesting that Disraeli, Gladstone, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill were advocates of torture and imprisonment without trial. What makes these EU flag wearing old farts so much wiser than we are?.

    • eeore

      Indeed, this is a very silly idea.

  • Vulture

    It’s strange that it takes removal from their Ministarial salaries and perks before Tory politicians treat us to their real opinions ( eg. Cheryl Gillan; Tim Loughton). Now Nick Herbert ‘former Home Office and Justice Minister’ has discovered the joys of Euroscepticism.

    Having said that, Herbert is of course quite right. The ECHR/Convention was set up after WW2 by Churchill among others to teach Europe, only just emerging from war and dictatorship, what Human Rights really were.

    Now it has itself morphed into an instrument of tyranny seeking to override our freely elected Parliament. Irrespective of the tights and wrongs of prisoner’s votes, Parliament is supreme and we have no business kow-towing to a foreign court.

    And while we’re about leaving the ECHR let’s leave the EU too!

    • Noa

      Leaving the ECHR will condition the public mindset and provide the best of precedents for our departure from the EU.

      Grieve will get the boot sooner rather than later because of the total lack of political savvy and the sheer gutlessness of his position over Sgt Danny Nightingale.

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