Monday, April 06, 2009

Lord Hoffman : ECHR is trying to create federal law of Europe

Lord Hoffman, one of the UK’s most senior judges, has criticised the European Court of Human Rights, for trying to create a federal law of Europe by the backdoor …

(Well, if ECHR was more fairly implemented and respected by public bodies in this country, perhaps there wouldn’t be the need for criticism – Ed)

The Scotsman reports :

Judge warns human rights court wants 'law of Europe'

Published Date: 05 April 2009
By Joe Churcher

ONE of Britain's most senior judges has launched a broadside against the European Court of Human Rights, accusing it of overstepping its role and trying to create a "federal law of Europe".

Lord Hoffmann, the second most senior Law Lord, backed the adoption of human rights law by the UK, but said it should be for this country to rule on its application, not judges in Strasbourg. "It has been unable to resist the temptation to aggrandise its jurisdiction and to impose uniform rules on member states," he said in a recent speech to the Judicial Studies Board.

"It considers itself the equivalent of the Supreme Court of the United States, laying down a federal law of Europe," said Lord Hoffmann, who is due to retire.

Interference on issues such as the right to silence, the use of hearsay evidence in court and even night flights at Heathrow Airport – "which sounds about as far from human rights as you could get" – showed the "basic flaw" in the system, he argued. "I regard all three of these cases, and many others which I could mention if there was time, as examples of what Bentham called 'teaching grandmothers to suck eggs'."

The court "lacks constitutional legitimacy", he said, with its judges elected by a committee chaired by a Latvian politician and whose British representatives were "a Labour politician with a trade union background and no legal qualifications and a Conservative politician who was called to the Bar in 1972 but so far as I know has never practised".

He stressed that he was not engaged in "populist Euroscepticism", pointing out that he did not question the legitimacy of the European Court of Justice, which is concerned with EU law, even if the "wisdom or even correctness" of its decisions might be criticised.

"We remain an independent nation with its own legal system, evolved over centuries of constitutional struggle and pragmatic change," he said. "I do not suggest belief that the United Kingdom's legal system is perfect, but I do argue that detailed decisions about how it could be improved should be made in London, either by our democratic institutions or by judicial bodies which, like the Supreme Court of the United States, are integral with our own society and respected as such."

The way the court operated had also put it at risk of "drowning in its workload".

At some time the Member States of the Council of Europe will have to sit down and decide upon its future. When they do, I hope they will give more serious thought than they did in 1950 to what exactly it is supposed to do."

Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer backed his concerns. "It may be doing what it conceives to be its job but there are dangers if you start to deal too much in the detail," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Focus on the important big issues, not trying to say 'I think the law should be a little bit like this or a little bit like that'."

Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve said: "It is interesting to note that the concerns we have about the European Court of Human Rights are shared by one of the most senior members of the judiciary.

"We believe in replacing the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights and responsibilities," he went on. "We will be able to address some of these issues by giving courts greater discretion in how rights are interpreted."

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