Saturday, May 28, 2011

Through the human rights looking glass

Morning all, I've been rather busy this week tying up loose ends and projects before starting the new role I mentioned a few weeks ago (long notice period you see). Anyhow, I have but one question this morning and it can be summed up in just three letter.

W.... T.... F?

So..I heard about this potential story the other day and thought much the same but never really thought it would end as it has. I, rather naively you might think, thought common sense might prevail.

I am of course talking about the news that a man who was convicted of burglary and dangerous driving resulting in an eight month prison sentence has been released after a month after winning an Appeal Court claim on the grounds that sending him to prison breached his human right to family life as he was the sole carer of his kids.

I must admit I;m still having a bit of trouble computing this, and hopefully more coffee will help. Apparently the affect of Daddy going to jail on the kids is now more important than the justice or victims of his offences. Now.. I don;t know about you, but I would've thought seeing Daddy going to jail for doing something wrong might actually be an important lesson to the kids of what happens when you break the law, but apparently not.

You might also be asking "errr where's the mother?"... she's not dead or anything. The five kids have been staying with her at the weekends for the last month and at the burglars sister's during the week. Apparently though that wasn't good enough better to free the guy huh?

Now here we have, once again, the irritating reality of the "human rights" agenda, but also we have a brilliant illustration of the problem of determining rights on the basis of holding the quality of "human" rather than the quality of "being a citizen of civil society".

You see, if you think about it, "human" rights, as defined in the Human Rights Act and the ECHR are ultimately flawed because they often sit in opposition with one another. On the one hand a burglar can have the "right to a family life" (Article 8) but it is in opposition to Article 5 relating to prison for committing crimes.

Worse still though, Article 8(1) which this burglar has used is even held in opposition to Article 8(2)
1: Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2: There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
So sending him to prison for the "prevention of disorder or crime.... for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others" is allowed... or is not in this case.

It's becoming increasingly clear that the ECHR, written against the backdrop of 20th Century horrors is now becoming a rather silly document. The problem though is that its politically difficult to withdraw from it (and replace it with something else) however sound the course of action might seem. This is mainly because if you withdraw from "human rights" you're instantly a pariah and clearly in favour of torture.

We're not going to Hell in a handcart, we got there years ago and it's become so normal no one seems to notice anymore. What I don't understand is why so many of the other signatories to the ECHR don't have the problems we do.

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