The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, writing in the Guardian, paid tribute to the UK’s ‘proud history of international leadership on human rights’. ‘Yet something strange has happened in recent years: while governments have continued the call for greater rights abroad, they have belittled the relevance of rights at home,’ he said. The Labour government that passed the Human Rights Act ‘then spent years trashing it’ and allowed ‘a myth to take root that human rights are a foreign invention, unwanted here, a charter for greedy lawyers and meddlesome bureaucrats’.
The ‘biggest problem’ faced by the legislation was not how it operated in the courts nor how it interacted with other rights but how it was ‘manipulated not just by the media but by overcautious officials’. Clegg cited the example of a police spokespeople blaming human rights for a decision to deliver a KFC meal to a fugitive on a roof. ‘There is no human right to fried chicken,’ he said.
Perhaps a bigger problem was Home Secretary Theresa May who told the Sunday Telegraph who, on the eve of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, she would ‘personally’ like to see the legislation binned because of the problems it has presented the Home Office.
‘I’d personally like to see the Human Rights Act go because I think we have had some problems with it,’ May said. ‘I see it, here in the Home Office, particularly, the sort of problems we have in being unable to deport people who perhaps are terrorist suspects. Obviously we’ve seen it with some foreign criminals who are in the UK.’
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award