Meddling Euro judges should stop making an ass out of the law

IN all probability you’ve never heard of Iulia Motoc, Ganna Yudkivska, Ineta Ziemele or Päivi Hirvelä, though you might guess they’re targets for top soccer clubs during this January’s transfer window – except all are female.

I could add a further 43 names and you’d be none the wiser. Nor would it help if I said Iulia is Rumanian, Ganna hails from Ukraine, Ineta is a Latvian and Päivi’s a Finn.

‘So what’, you might say dismissively. ‘They’re nothing to do with me.’

But how wrong you’d be. Because they have much to do with you – and the 733 million others populating our continent – in everything from how you work, who you rub shoulders with, what you buy, even to what opinions you choose to air in public.

In fact, in some respects, they are higher and mightier than all the prime ministers, presidents and parliaments in Europe put together.

What’s more, they’re answerable to no-one, because they are judges at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), ostensibly the arbiter of last resort for disgruntled citizens to bring their governments to heel.

However, just as the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, so, is the ECHR. And it threatens to become such a judicial blight on almost every nation falling within it remit – which means most of us – serious concerns are being voiced as to whether it’s become too big for its boots.

Historically, the ECHR was the lovechild of the Council of Europe, formed in 1950 with the laudable intention of never again tolerating a regime as homicidally racist and wantonly thuggish as the Nazis.

Three years later the European Convention of Human Rights was drafted and in 1959 the Court constituted, with signatory states, including Britain, appointing judges, who – way back then – were mainly there for the kudos.

Each member nation still retained its own laws and the ECHR was chiefly hailed as an triumph of emerging, pan-European political goodwill rather than an instrument of judicial meddling.

CAUGHT OUT: The European Court of Human Rights comes under fire for some of its 'judicial frolics'

CAUGHT OUT: The European Court of Human Rights comes under fire for some of its ‘judicial frolics’

Until, that is, in their addled wisdom, Brussels Europrats decided that applicants to the EU – which operates the extraneous European Court of Justice – had to join the Council of Europe, thereby kow-towing to the primacy of the ECHR.

In theory the motives to protect and enhance human rights are noble, especially in regard to former Soviet bloc satellites; in practice, however, it has led to some gross violations of individual national rights.

Deep misgivings have also emerged about some appointees to the Strasbourg bench being novices and/or harbouring personal, prejudiced social and political agendas.

As an ECHR official privately admitted, ‘Around half the judges had no judicial experience before going to the Court, which means it’s no surprise they go off on judicial frolics of their own.’

So it matters little that countries – like Britain – with long, democratic histories, have evolved legal systems far superior to the upstart Europeans, whose often quirky rulings can beggar belief.

Probably nothing better illustrated Strasbourg’s ability to make an ass of itself when it rode, roughshod, over UK justice in the cases of hook-handed hate preacher Abu Hamza – who used the ECHR for years to block attempts to deport him to face terrorism charges in the USA – and the equally abhorrent Abu Qatada, wanted in Jordan.

The Euro judges also have other, festering bees in their non-existent wigs, firstly accusing Britain of ‘human rights abuse’ by denying criminals the vote while they’re in jail.

In a sane world it’s not unreasonable that convicts forfeit privileges enjoyed by law-abiders. And their incarceration certainly shouldn’t extend to the liberty of scratching an X on a ballot paper any more than good behaviour should earn them a week’s knees-up in Magaluf.

This time, however, Strasbourg’s arrogant twaddle is meeting with fierce hostility, not just from UK politicians, but the country’s judiciary.

Former Lord Chief Justice Judge recently stated his learned opinion that no judges should have the power of the ECHR and the Court wasn‘t ‘entitled to tell every country in Europe how to organise itself’.

DEPORATION DODGER: For years hate preacher, Abu Hamza, used the ECHR to avoid terror charges in America

DEPORATION DODGER: For years hate preacher, Abu Hamza, used the ECHR to avoid terror charges in America

While applauding the Human Rights Convention – largely written, as he pointed out, ‘by British lawyers for a war-torn, concentration-camp filled continent’ – the former law lord seriously questioned how Euro judges interpret it.

‘I think it [the Human Rights Act], means you take account of, have regard to [European rulings], but it does not mean we are bound by the decisions. My very strong belief is that this issue needs to be resolved by Parliament,’ he told Radio 4’s Today programme.

The second collision between Britain and the ECHR regards current English law that allows judges to impose ‘whole life’ tariffs, effectively sentencing a criminal to die in jail.

Strasbourg’s opinion is such sentences are a breach of the Human Rights Convention, because there was no possibility of a ‘right to review’.

That ruling therefore means at least one serial killer has avoided a whole-life sentence and opens the door for others to follow, completely ignoring the human rights of victims and their families.

Meanwhile, 61 years is a long enough stretch for any convention to exist unchanged, especially since it authors couldn’t foresee challenges ahead, like the threat posed by international terrorism.

Left unchecked, then, the Euro judges are free to impose their alien legal system on EU states and humiliate national governments, whose laws may be far more in lockstep with modern-day justice.

But, because the ECHR is the Council of Europe’s legal battering-ram, any member country found in contempt of its ‘judicial frolics’ could find itself an EU outcast.

As ECHR President, Dean Spielmann, warned, ‘I can hardly see how a member of the European Union could possibly withdraw from the Council of Europe. From a political perspective it might be very difficult to stay in the European Union.’

Of course, it would be simpler for the UK government to cave in and give serving cons the vote.

But, somehow, the notion of the likes of Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, and Gunner Lee Rigby’s killers enjoying the freedom to cast a ballot doesn’t sit easily with most Brits, a view backed by Prime Minister, David Cameron, who said the prospect made him ‘physically sick.’

So, maybe, it’s time to put the ECHR in its own dock – and judge whether its absurdities are bringing the law into disrepute.

Because, on the evidence so far, it is certainly guilty of putting the civil liberties of a few ahead of the human rights of the many.

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Britain needs no lectures on human rights from Europe’s bullying court

Charles Dickens expressed his low esteem for the legal system in Oliver Twist, by penning the immortal line, ‘The law is an ass.’

If the European Court of Human Rights had existed in Victorian England, the great novelist and social commentator might have reached a far more withering verdict…that it is a bullying buffoon, for too long arrogantly riding roughshod over the laws and parliamentary voices of its 47 member states with thuggish zeal from its ivory tower in Strasbourg.

And last week it proved beyond a scintilla of doubt it’s no longer fit for purpose by upholding appeals against ‘life-means-life’ sentences by three of the most callous, brutal murderers ever brought to justice.

One was Jeremy Bamber, who, in 1986, murdered five members of his family – including his parents and two young nephews – in a bid to snatch a large inheritance. He even tried to pin the crimes on his mentally ill sister, whom he also shot.

Another, Douglas Vinter, stabbed his wife to death in 2008, less than three years after being released from jail for a previous murder.

The third, Peter Moore, killed four gay men in 1995 for perverted sexual gratification.

Yet, in their blustering inanity, the Euro judges decided that whole-life tariffs, which force murderers to die in jail, are ‘inhuman and degrading’.

Naturally, they ignored the ‘inhuman and degrading’ treatment meted out to the victims or the sentiments of the British people and lawmakers, who believe certain heinous criminals are beyond redemption.

The ECHR also failed to take into account that, after abolishing capital punishment in 1965, life sentences sometimes meant lifers would go the distance and currently 49 are subject to that fate.

MULTIPLE MURDERER: Jeremy Bamber killed five of his own family, but the ECHR rules his 'life-means-life' sentence breaches his human rights

MULTIPLE MURDERER: Jeremy Bamber killed five of his family, but the ECHR ruled his ‘life-means-life’ sentence breaches his human rights

Inevitably, the ruling will bring succour to Moors murder, Ian Brady, and Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. And no doubt their legal teams are beavering away now on appeals to the robed primates of Strasbourg – especially after Brady failed to convince a court he was bad, not mad, and should be transferred from a mental facility to a prison, so he can legally starve himself to death.

If this latest ECHR judgement was a one-off aberration it could almost be excused. But it wasn’t, because it followed a litany of crackpot rulings that make a mockery of UK justice.

The Abu Qatada farce was indisputably the most contentious, since it hamstrung a national government’s will to rid itself of an evil fanatic – described by a High Court judge as ‘Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe’ – who entered Britain illegally and urged his followers to kill British troops.

Yet it took eight years of toil by five Home Secretaries (Interior Ministers) to get rid of the monster and shrug off the ignominy piled on a nation that evolved one of the first, fair, moral codes of justice – reaching back to the 13th Century Magna Carta – by a bunch of foreign appointees, many from lands where freedom is still as shiny as a new euro.

Rightly, countless precedents in English criminal law were enshrined in the European Charter for Human Rights, codified in 1953 by the Council of Europe after the horrors of World War Two, especially the Holocaust.

These formed the basis for the ECHR when it was established in 1959 as a court of last resort.

The problem is, during the ensuing 54 years, it has extended its remit well beyond the intentions of the founding fathers and its power grab now vetoes the democratic will of its constituent parts.

JUSTICE ON TRIAL: Euro judges ignore the human rights of murder victims and member nations

JUSTICE ON TRIAL: Euro judges ignore the human rights of murder victims and member nations

The result is practically any ne’er-do-well who can’t convince anyone from a magistrate to a Supreme Court judge of his innocence can take the gripe to Strasbourg and bog the legal system down for years, not to say rack up vast legal aid costs (£1.7M in Qatada’s case).

Unsurprisingly, ‘human rights’ has become one of my learned friends’ financial honey pots, as the number of appeals to the ECHR exploded from 8,400 in 1999 to 57,000 a decade later, with 119,300 pending.

Meanwhile, Strasbourg’s meddling goes far beyond individuals and into national affairs of state, as demonstrated by its demand for the UK to give convicts the right to vote, despite prevailing public opinion insisting felons forfeit that privilege during their time behind bars.

Now, finally, after years of scorn from Strasbourg, a British Home Secretary – namely Theresa May – is making more than noises about quitting the jurisdiction of the ECHR.

Obviously, this doesn’t please Dean Spielmann, the Luxembourg judge and president of the court, who warns, ‘Any member state who would leave the Council of Europe, who would denounce the convention, would lose its credibility when it comes to promoting human rights also in different parts of the world. It would be political disaster.’

Spielmann isn’t the first judge to talk codswallop through his wig (not that they wear them in Strasbourg). But he’s entirely mistaken to criticise a nation, whose legal system is still one of the envies of the world and has sufficient in-built safeguards to ensure justice is done and seen to be.

GUILTY VERDICT: Ex-UK Home Secretary, David Blunkett, puts the ECHR in the dock

GUILTY VERDICT: Ex-UK Home Secretary, David Blunkett, puts the ECHR in the dock

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights generally have no issues with how the UK dispenses law.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of countries who have signed up to the UN Convention on Human Rights who barely pay lip service to the concept.

So Spielmann and his ECHR cronies might like to heed the wisdom of David Blunkett, who oversaw the ‘whole life’ sentencing legislation as Home Secretary in 2003.

‘Whatever the technical justification the Strasbourg court may have, it is the right of the British Parliament to determine the sentence of those who have committed crimes and for democracy to have the will of the people implemented. To do otherwise can only lead to disillusionment, mistrust of, and a dangerous alienation from, our democracy itself,’ he noted sagely.

I rest my case.

Britain should take French lessons in how to get rid of Islamo nasties

Zoot alors – or words to that effect! Here I am, breaking the habit of a lifetime and actually singing the praises of French politicians.

First, let me state emphatically this is entirely unrelated to President Francois Hollande’s crass mismanagement of an economy that’s stinks worse than an over-ripe Camembert, where recession deepens and a record 3.22 million – 10.6% of the workforce – are jobless.

Indeed, I’ll even desist from naming and shaming the host of Champagne Socialists in Hollande’s regime, who put the flushest of Old Etonians in David Cameron’s Cabinet to shame when it comes to piling up the moolah.

So what am I doing extolling the virtues of Gallic lawmakers and some of their loonier edicts – retaining a 35-hour week and thinking you can compete with the Germans…words fail me – whose peccadilloes are very much in keeping with notoriously lax, French political custom and practice?

Where France excels, however, is in its attachment to the principles of La Révolution of 1789, when aristos were trundled off to the guillotine in tumbrels without so much as a by-your-leave trial (okay, okay…there was a pretence of one, but it was a foregone conclusion they’d always end up several inches shorter later that day).

Today, it applies rather differently, but nonetheless with the same ruthless efficiency.

Because, when it comes to dealing with nasties – particularly of the Islamic persuasion, foaming at le gob with notions of imposing sharia rule on the nation where liberté, égalité, fraternité were invented – the French retain the final word…and it’s ‘Non!’

Instead of ‘Off with their heads’, nowadays it’s ‘Au revoir and off you go’ and Abdul, Ali or Mo are on the first plane out of Paris De Gaulle to be delivered to from whence they came.

MOCKING JUSTICE: But hate preacher, Abu Qatada, wouldn't have escaped expulsion in France

GOING, GOING…NEARLY GONE: Hate preacher, Abu Qatada,  has  agreed to quit the UK, but he wouldn’t he have escaped French expulsion  for so long

So why has Britain been stuck with the ogrish spectre of Abu Qatada, who made a mockery of five Home Secretaries’ attempts over the last 10 years to deport him back to his native Jordan, where he has been convicted on terror charges in absentia.

At least, the odious, hate preacher – who arrived in the UK on a false passport in 1993 and was described by a judge as ‘Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe’ – threw in the towel yesterday (April 10) and agreed to hop it home, once a new treaty guaranteeing him a fair trial is ratified.

However, had he chosen La Belle France instead of Angleterre in the first place, he’d already be banged up in an Amman jail, counting his prayer beads and ruing his luck.

Like Britain, France is a liberal democracy, a member of the EU, a signatory to the convention on human rights and, likewise, at the mercy of the boneheads who sit in judgement at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. Unlike Britain, it is also a member of the Schengen Bloc, so its borders are porous to the sort of people you’d rather not have sharing a garden fence.

Moreover, even with several million Muslim votes at stake, French politicians have passed edicts banning religious symbols – principally the burqa – in public.

Meanwhile, between 2001 and 2010, the French expelled 129 Islamic headbangers while Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, and four of her frustrated predecessors managed to shift only an abysmal nine nasties deemed to pose a threat to national security.

And, bizarrely, France’s Interior Minister didn’t have to jump through legalistic hoops, scurry back and forth to Arab countries – like Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, whose justice systems are similarly as whiffy as over-ripe Camembert – gaining assurances the jihadi detritus being returned to sender would be treated fairly.

On the other hand, Mrs. May went to immense pains to wring out of the Jordanians guarantees Qatada would not be tortured or that any evidence used against him had not been tainted by brutal interrogation.

This baffling double-standard hasn’t escaped the attention of counter-terrorism expert, Dr. Frank Foley, whose new book, Countering Terrorism in Britain & France (Cambridge University Press), highlights the discrepancies between the Gallic and Anglo approaches to eradicating the dangers posed by extremists.

His conclusion is it that the framework of Britain’s legal system – and how it differs from that across the Channel – is as much to blame as that deservedly much-maligned, judicial joke, the ECHR.

Foley says, ‘In France, individuals only have limited means of preventing their deportation, because of the relevant legal regulations and because of the swift expulsion practices of the French authorities.’

NO, MINISTER: Like her four predecessors, Home Secretary Theresa May can't get rid of Qatada

NO, MINISTER: Like her four predecessors, British Home Secretary Theresa May couldn’t get rid of odious Qatada

There, an appeal does not immediately suspend expulsion, so an individual can be deported and afterwards petition a judge to overrule it from the discomfort of his homeland.

Foley explains, ‘The authorities have pre-empted such legal moves by putting the individual on a plane home within just a few days of the order being issued.’

Nor is France particularly fazed by the niceties of other nations’ notions of justice.

‘The French courts have not overturned any of the government’s deportation decisions on the basis that radical Islamists face a risk of torture or mistreatment if they are returned,’ reports Foley.

However, in Qatada’s case, neither did UK courts. Since 2001, British judges twice upheld efforts to boot him out. And, in 2007, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission agreed Jordanian assurances were enough to override human rights fears. This was upheld in 2009 by the Law Lords, who also ruled that it wasn’t for British courts ‘to regulate the conduct of trials in foreign countries’ or decide on the merits of evidence.

So what was Qatada – who demands Jews and converts from Islam (plus their kith and kin) be murdered and declared it is forever open season on annihilating Americans – still doing dodging Jordanian justice in Britain, while in possession of an £800,000, 4-bedroom house in West London, courtesy of the taxpayer?

The problem stems from various UK governments’ tardiness in reacting to jihadis in the Nineties, when they could have copied the French example and closed a glaring loophole.  Had this been done, a legal cottage industry defending the indefensible wouldn’t have mushroomed, costing millions in Legal Aid, and would have subverted European meddling.

Instead – as Qatada’s case disgracefully demonstrated – knowing Strasbourg would overrule them, powerless UK judges began caving into Abu’s appeals…until Friday’s voluntary game-changer.

So while liberals may insist the French judiciary is more arbitrary and authoritarian, there’s no denying in Britain, with all its traditions of free speech and civil liberty, the law is an ass when it comes to dealing with nasties like Qatada.

Which is why – just before I wash my mouth out with lye soap – I’ll say, ‘Vive la France!