Reid on rights

John Reid has been busy embarrassing Britain at the G6 summit by taking pot shots at human rights again:

.”The right to security, to the protection of life and liberty, is and should be the basic right on which all others are based,” he said. “Now, more than ever, it should be the fundamental starting point of all our principles and practices across Europe.”

The right to life already is the fundamental starting point of the ECHR. That the Home Office can’t see how to get its act together to fulfil its positive obligation to protect our lives, without destroying our rights to liberty and security of person, is a problem it needs to address.

Reid also asserted that:

“We need to work to modernise the law – still protecting human rights and still providing equity and justice – but reflecting the reality of the conflicts and struggles we now face.

“We need leadership to do this. It can’t be left solely to the lawyers.”

Rather ironic when one considers how readily they have left lawyers to mop up the mess created by ambiguous legislation and abysmal standards of drafting.

Take the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for instance: it criminalised all forms of sexual behaviour between teenagers – except that the government made clear that it ‘didn’t really mean it’ by stating its advance intention of instructing Crown Prosecutors that they should not normally prosecute. The Joint Committee on Human Rights delivered a well-deserved broadside:

one should attempt to target legislation so that it reflects a proper balance between the rights and interests affected by it. The Government does not suggest that it would be impossible to do this, but it prefers not to try, in case the legislation fails to cover every conceivable case in which one might want to prosecute. Instead of striking a proper balance, this approach in effect refuses to take on the task, leaving it to the discretion of prosecutors to make sure that the legislation does not systematically violate people’s rights. As we have frequently said in earlier reports, official discretion should not in general be regarded as offering satisfactory protection against violation of rights.

As for ‘the need to modernise’ the law, modernising fantasies have already cost us billions in failed IT projects, so I’d prefer to pass on that one, thanks. If there’s a straight choice between politicians and lawyers to safeguard my rights, all the evidence so far suggests that my best hope lies with the lawyers.

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