Saturday, May 16, 2009

Paul McBride & ex Lord Advocate Fraser team up to tear up European Human Rights Charter

Not one of the better ideas of the Conservatives, tearing up ECHR just to get a few votes on the misconcemption that such legislation is used only to protect criminals. Simply ECHR isn’t used enough by solicitors for what it was designed to do in the UK, because there’s more money from the legal aid board to use it for criminals rights – and Paul McBride should know all about that.

Anyway, the Tories are supposedly hotly pursuing this one, by throwing Paul McBride QC and ex Lord Advocate Peter Fraser together to make a hash good job of it. (More of a hash I think, and how's McBride’s client Mr Haggarty getting on ? – Ed)

The Scotsman reports :

European human rights laws may be torn up under Tory government

Published Date: 16 May 2009

THE Conservative Party has set up a commission to investigate whether the European Convention of Human Rights can be scrapped and replaced with a British alternative.

Paul McBride QC and former lord advocate Peter Fraser are part of a team set up by Tory leader David Cameron to consider the change.

The group has been tasked with creating a British Bill of Rights to apply in the English and Scottish legal systems and replace current legislation.

It follows concerns that the European Convention is having a different impact to the one intended when it was incorporated into UK law in 1999.

Mr McBride and Lord Fraser addressed the Scottish Tories' spring conference in Perth yesterday, and gave contrasting views of what might happen under a Cameron government.

Mr McBride was applauded when he declared the Human Rights Act was "discredited" and he raised concerns the act was helping criminals, not victims.

And he said it was a disgrace that people who committed serious crimes, such as attacking somebody with a knife, causing their permanent disfigurement, might be out on the streets after only four months of a four-year sentence.

Later, the man expected to be rewarded for switching his support from Labour to the Tories with a key role in any new administration, told The Scotsman he was confident that the commission could come up with an alternative that would fit Britain's needs.

"There are problems with what we have at the moment," said Mr McBride. "It is a one-size-fits-all for Europe, not one which takes into consideration Britain's history and needs."

But the attack on the Human Rights Act by Mr McBride and others at the conference met with Lord Fraser's disapproval at a fringe meeting. "I was disappointed to hear people say we need to get rid of it – and the language that was used. It is absolutely necessary," he said.

He thought it would be almost impossible to have a British Bill of Rights, because of the different legal systems in England and Scotland. "For example, in England there is an automatic right to jury trial but not in Scotland," he said. "The problem is that a British Bill of Rights would have to be too long and complicated to be practical."

He expected that the review's conclusion would be that the European Convention should stay.

But Gordon Downie, a constitutional expert from Edinburgh law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn, disagreed.

He said that it would be possible to have a simple document that talked of general rights in "high law" rather than specifics.

"It is likely that it would be applied differently in England and Scotland," he said. "It is possible they may come up with a regional version for England. However, Westminster can do this because human rights legislation is reserved, even though some of its applications are devolved.

"It does not have to be too specific, these documents never are. They need to be simple."

But he warned, as with the current act, it might be applied by judges with unintended consequences and "there may be questions about the standing of such a document in law".

Campaigning father of knife attack victim backs tougher jail terms

A MAN who has led a campaign to stop the scourge of knife crime in Scotland yesterday came out in support of Conservative proposal for tougher prison sentences.

John Muir, from Greenock, who launched the campaign after his son Damian was murdered in 2007, told the Tories he was "delighted" with their plan to introduce minimum two-year sentences for those carrying knives.

He believes his son would not have died if tougher sentences had been in place for knife crime. The man who killed his son was out on bail waiting to be tried for another crime involving a knife.

Mr Muir demanded other parties get behind the Tory plan and, in an impassioned speech to the Scottish Conservative conference in Perth, shouted: "Mr MacAskill are you listening?"

He said he had been angered by the SNP's reluctance to introduce mandatory prison sentences and the refusal of justice secretary Kenny MacAskill to attend a knife conference in Holyrood.

Labour has also put forward proposals that would mean mandatory prison sentences for those caught carrying a knife.

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