David Cameron yesterday called for reform of the European Court of Human Rights to prevent it turning into ‘a small claims court’ that was  ‘swamped’ by ‘spurious’ cases.

The Prime Minister insisted that human rights was a cause that ‘ran deep in the British heart and long in British history’. ‘We are not and never will be a country that walks on by while human rights are trampled into the dust. This has a lot to do with Britain’s national character – a love of freedom and an instinctive loathing of over-mighty authority. But it is also about our national interest – to live, travel and trade in a more open, secure world.’

However Cameron  argued that the court was ‘under threat’. ‘We have seen a massive inflation in the number of cases. In the first 40 years of its existence, 45,000 cases were presented to the court. In 2010 alone, 61,300 applications were presented… the very purpose of the Court – to prevent the most serious violations of human rights – is under threat.’

  • You can a full transcript of the speech HERE.
  • You can read Matt Evan’s on the PM’s speech and the Abu Qatada case HERE.
  • You can read about the Coalition government and human rights HERE.

 

From the PM’s speech:

Court of the fourth instance: the PM talked of ‘the risk’ of turning the European Court of Human Rights into a court of “fourth instance”’.

‘In effect that gives an extra bite of the cherry to anyone who is dissatisfied with a domestic ruling, even where that judgement is reasonable, well-founded, and in line with the Convention.

Quite simply, the Court has got to be able to fully protect itself against spurious cases when they have been dealt with at the national level.’

Slim margin of appreciation:  The PM also said that it ‘felt to us in national governments that the ‘margin of appreciation’ – which allows for different interpretations of the Convention – has shrunk’ and that ‘not enough account is being taken of democratic decisions by national parliaments’. ‘As the margin of appreciation has shrunk, so controversy has grown.’

Right moment for reform: The PM argued that the court should be ‘free to deal with the most serious violations of human rights’ and ‘not swamped with an endless backlog of cases’. The Court should ‘not act as a small claims court’ and ‘not undermine its own reputation by going over national decisions where it does not need to’.

 

 

 

Profile photo of Jon Robins About Jon Robins
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

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1 Comment

  • Anonymous February 2, 2012 12:30 pm

    Mr Cameron’s record on judicial issues is not very inspiring. His attack on the Supreme Court for giving effect to convention rights on removal from the sex offenders register (which he described as “offensive”) and the ECHR over the right of prisoners to vote (which he said made him “physically ill”) were both squarely aimed at playing tough to the tabloids.

    The problem that he has is that he is now making some valid points about the need for reform but his ill-considered earlier comments come back to haunt him as shown by the “attack” on him made by Sir Nicholas Bratza. It is well worth reading the MailOnline story on this which manages with great skill to report Sir Nicholas’ views whilst quietly rubbishing the court.

    As Mr Cameron might eventually understand – you can’t pick and choose with human rights.

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