The human rights industry wish list

Sorry, I mean the Bill of Rights Forum final report. Newton Emerson has his look at the potential move from “we the people” to “we the judiciary” Northern Ireland faces.

  • willowfield

    Good article.

    What happened to the Civic Forum? Was it abolished at St Andrews? Good riddance, anyway.

    In respect of the “Bill of Rights” report, consider this:

    (1) RIGHT TO AN ADEQUATE STANDARD OF LIVING

    1. Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, water, energy, fuel and clothing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.

    2. Public authorities shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to the maximum of their available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation of this right.

    A few questions arise:

    (a) What is “adequate” and who will decide? (Presumably a court, after several appeals.)

    (b) Why should there be a right to “continuous improvement” of living conditions, and how would this right be enforced, for example, in a recession? If somebody lost his job because of, say, gross incompetence, and became unemployed, would he be able to bring an action against the Government because his living conditions were not “continuously improving”?

    (c) What would happen in a, not unrealistic, scenario in which there is an energy shortage? Would the Government have to divert energy resources away from, say, businesses in order to provide “adequate” supply to individual citizens?

  • Mr Monochrome

    Here we go again…

    If Newt actually took the time to read the BOR papers and behave in an adult manner to take time to understand the process, maybe he wouldn’t jump to this nonsensical stance each time he commented on the Bill of Rights.

    The process moves on for the benifit of all people, regardless of class creed colour or race, this is obvioulsy above Newts level of intelligence… Maybe we should just allow him to create the law, or maybe we go back to the good old days when huge sectors of our people on both sides on the conflict were denied votes, housing and education…

    To suggest that it is all at the behest of some kind of “Rights Industry” is utter nonsense, he needs to open his eyes, all those involved, including the politicians who were in even numbers on the forum if he could actually count, were given the right to make their points and have their voices heard equally with civic society.

    The very fact that everything was in the final document was down to the simple fact that there were no votes taken only opinions collected…

    That was a specific decision to have everything available for the HRC, let’s not forget that the last time the HRC worked on a Bill of Rights they carried out a huge consultation and then roundly ignored it. The process as it was finalised by the forum was designed to circumvent this kind of thing this time round.

    The process now moves to the HRC who will pass the final paper to the Secretary of State on December 10, International Human rights day, and then the Secretary will finalise it and consult widely on it before it moves through Parliament.

    Newt has yet to actually get anything right when it comes to the BOR and I am fairly sure he’ll never manage to it given this recent childish and nonsensical outburst…

    Why do the Irish News pay this man to constantly throw his middle class rattle form his pram ? ?

  • Shore Road Resident

    Politicians were outnumbered on every forum working group – a rights sector chair had the casting vote in each case. The reason no vote was taken was because no consensus could be reached – hardly a triumph for the forum process. I don’t see any inaccuracies in this article.

  • willowfield

    Mr Monochrome, could you answer my questions re the right to an adequate standard of living?

    … Maybe we should just allow him to create the law, or maybe we go back to the good old days when huge sectors of our people on both sides on the conflict were denied votes, housing and education…

    This is an ironic criticism, given that Newt is saying that our elected representatives should make the law: not judges at the behest of “civic society”.

    It is fallacious to conclude that the absence of a bill of rights as put forward by “civic society” means that universal suffrage will be removed, and that housing and education will be denied.

  • Mark McGregor

    Michael,

    I would suggest if people aren’t happy with a BoR, they shouldn’t have a)negotiated it b)voted for it:

    4. The new Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (see paragraph 5 below) will be invited to consult and to advise on the scope for defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to those in the European Convention on Human Rights, to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, drawing as appropriate on international instruments and experience. These additional rights to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem, and – taken together with the ECHR – to constitute a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Among the issues for consideration by the Commission will be: • the formulation of a general obligation on government and public bodies fully to respect, on the basis of equality of treatment, the identityand ethos of both communities in Northern Ireland; and • a clear formulation of the rights not to be discriminated against and to equality of opportunity in both the public and private sectors

    You do remember? That thing Trimble negotiated?

  • willowfield

    That is merely a commitment to “consult and to advise on the scope for defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to those in the European Convention on Human Rights …”.

    There is no commitment to the massive wish list produced by this self-important group of “civil society” hacks.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Mark, that’s the very point. This isn’t the BoR we voted for. The BoR process has never been able to restrict itself to “supplementary rights” for the “particular circumstances of Northern Ireland” plus “additional rights to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem”.

    What particular circumstances of Northern Ireland require rights to “food, water, energy and clothing” or the right to a “continuously improving standard of living”? Some people in the rights sector say poverty and inequality here are a ‘particular circumstance’ but as I believe the DUP has pointed out, poverty and inequality are worse in London using the same statistical methods used here.

    The whole thing is a ridiculous attempt by certain persons to advance their own careers with a document that they hope will put them on the international human rights rubber chicken circuit forever. As a result, we haven’t got what we voted for and they have made such a god-awful mess of it – again – that we probably never will.

  • Newt has made one obvious error, which suggests as indicated by others that there are many. He says the Assembly hasn’t passed any legislation. Perhaps if goes to http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/legislation/primary/assleg07.htm he’ll see that excluding Budget Bills there have been four pieces of legislation which have received Royal Assent since June of last year…

  • Mr Monochrome,

    I have read the document. It acknowledged other suggestions but arrived at a chairman’s recommendation. As Emerson said, objections were carried in footnotes.

    Btw just repeating that the Bill is for everyone does not make it a good thing ot beyond criticism. The suggestions which were carried in the report were in many cases appalling, in other cases clauses simply replicate existing rights.

    I have blogged in some detail on the bill, but two articles carry some detail about my objections to the report.

    http://threethousandversts.blogspot.com/2008/04/wiping-slate-clean-for-terror-criminals.html

    http://threethousandversts.blogspot.com/2008/03/duplicity-and-platitudes-bill-of-rights.html

  • Shore Road Resident

    Not so, the assembly has failed to pass a single piece of new legislation, as stated in the article and reported in the Irish News last week. The four pieces of legislation passed to date were all drafted under direct rule.

  • Jimmy

    Willowfield, you have summed it up perfectly.
    I would add to that, what is the point of a NI BoR when they are already enshrined in ECHR? Is this new puesdo quango just a regional Glorified administrator of the ECHR? So whats the point of it?
    Newton Emerson is one of the best political commentators in the north and tells it like it is.
    I couldnt fault his analyis in anyway. He is a breath of fresh air to Journalism.

  • Newton Emerson

    Oh dear. Inaccurate claims of inaccuracy are a poor response to the points raised here. They also sound a little familiar… I should remind Mr Monochrome, if I need to remind him, that when the BoR was debated in the assembly earlier this year the rights sector quite rightly protested at the “personal” nature of some of the comments by DUP members. It would be most embarrassing if the rights sector was found to have engaged in similar behaviour against its own critics.

    I do understand why the rights sector responds to criticism with such spluttering outrage. Its members suffer the common delusion of the liberal left that no decent person could possibly disagree with them. How can you not love rights? It’s like not loving kittens. Anyone who has a problem with a bill of rights must be some sort of heartless monster.

    One aspect of the BoR process that strikes me forcibly when reading its reports or attending its events is the extremely poor quality of the debate, which rarely rises above the kitten-soft level. At the meeting referred to in the article, a member of the audience asked the panel an entirely sincere and genuinely perplexed question about the proposed right of children to health.
    What if a child’s mother smokes, or drank during pregnancy, he asked. How would the state propose to stop or punish her?

    The senior member of the Human Rights Consortium fish-mounted a few times before repeating the phrase “there are poor babies in Lisburn” (I kid you not) until her voice trailed off. Then the chairman changed the subject. If serious analysis in the local rights sector has gone any deeper than this, I have yet to see much evidence of it.

  • willowfield

    Jimmy – the draft “bill of rights” actually includes a reiteration of most of the rights already in the ECHR!

  • Mark McGregor

    I was pointing out, those moaning about this need to examine legislation. This was an agreed process endorsed by the 6 county electorate.

    Secondly, have a good read at the legislation. This is not the Bill of Right or even a draft Bill of Rights.

    This is a consultation document that will be submitted to the NIHRC.

    The NIHRC then uses it to make recommendations to the SoS.

    The SoS uses those recommendations to submit a Bill to Westminister for the usual process of validation.

    At that point the Shinners will become hopping mad just like those opposed to the whole process and balance of recommendations thus far are at present. The whole thing will be diluted to irrelevance and they will have absolutely no input on the final outcome.

    People are jumping the gun and wetting their knickers over the early stages of a consultation. By the time this thing is finished it’ll be totally irrelevant and no use to man nor beast and at that point Newton and the Unionists will be happy little bunnies.

  • majordolittle

    Jimmy
    I was about to write almost exactly the same thing. Spot on.
    Newton’s column is the most enjoyable by far on the local circuit. And usually the one that doesn’t fanny around the fact that we have created a society where thousands of people are employed in a huge self serving bureaucracy.
    Who pays for all this nonsense.

  • TAFKABO

    Some good points in the article, but I’m afraid that overall it suffers from the author using it as yet another springboard from which to vent his spleen on his favourite hate figures, the dreaded liberal Left.

    The whole argument reminds of of what is happening in the policing debate right now. People seemed to think that we were going to get some kind of police force that was representative of the population as a whole, meant to serve the people,rather than simply be there to enforce the rules and maintain the status quo, but where in the world exists a police service such as that?
    Instead, people are surprised to see that the new boss is pretty much the same as the old boss, and if I carry on in that theme, they’ve just been fooled again.
    So it is with our BoR fiasco, except it seems to me that people are annoyed because they will be able to see the unelected quangos that get to decide on what is good for the rest of us.
    But what does Newton thinks happens at the moment, or will happen if this whole thing collapses?
    there’ll still be unelected quangos making decisions on what we can and cannot do, but hey, at least hey wont be loony lefties, so that’s all right, eh?

  • I have some sympathy with the idea of a bill of rights, but the effort quoted above hardly inspires confidence. ‘Continuous improvement’ is the sort of thing Michael O’Leary does to cut costs: supplying seatbelts made out of paper, that sort of thing. That said, if everyone had the right to the continuous improvement of living conditions, perhaps the filthy rich could refuse to pay higher rates of tax on account of the fact that this would leave them with less disposable income to spend on helicopter fuel.

  • Big Bird

    “doesn’t fanny around the fact….”
    Posted by majordolittle on Apr 04, 2008 @ 01:06 PM

    Will resist the obvious….

    Newton “Tory Boy” Emerson doesn’t seem to get any of the “facts” right! His piece was inaccurate, and obviously he has been briefed by his Tory/UUP friends! Apart from some mildly amusing comments, that are no more incisive than the booze fuelled friday afternoon banter in the BBC club, his articles are littered with his conservative agenda.

  • Newton Emerson

    Not necessarily, TAFKABO. The discussion documents published so far on devolving policing and justice powers are very promising and there is cross-community consensus in the assembly for tackling the most obscene quango of them all, the public prosecution service (which would have remained untouchable under the original NIO proposals).

    There is nothing inevitable about government by quango – it is a relatively recent phenomenon and also plainly unsustainable, if only because the first duty of the sector is to expand its scale and remit in all directions. Sooner or later it will hit a brick wall and collapse through its inability to expand. The BoR Forum fiasco may well be a harbinger of this.

    I do have fun with the lazy left-liberal nature of local “civic society” and it is not a coincidence that statist-minded people are drawn to statist projects. However, everyone seems to have forgotten very quickly that quangos in their present form were a Tory invention and getting rid of the quangos was a key New Labour election pledge…

  • Newton Emerson

    PS: Can anyone actually point out an inaccuracy in my article or is just shouting “inaccuracy” then resorting to personal abuse the best they can manage?

  • Hogan

    TAFKABO

    The whole point of Norn Iron having scores of unelected quangos pre-GFA was to produce a veneer of reducing the democratic deficit caused by brit ministers lording it over us.

    Now that we have our own administration we have every right to expect the number of quangos to reduce.

  • joeCanuck

    (is) resorting to personal abuse the best they can manage?

    First time here Newton? ;o)

  • fair play

    Newton,

    I believe your piece concerning the age of criminal responsibilty was inaccurate. While a fixed age was proposed in a working group, the actual final document, did not include any fixed age, and in fact, recognised that the age, should be in line with international standards, which currently states, that it should be “not less than 12”, while leaving the specific age to be determined by legislation.

  • Mark McGregor

    Newt,

    I’m not too interested and no expert but see some potential inaccuracies in your first para alone:

    has recommended” every special interest proposal

    I know of several that were relegated to footnotes. You can even read them in the report.

    effectively abolishing youth and female custody

    Not true. Residential training orders are the accepted norm for replacing imprisonment in serious cases but detention occurs without imprisonment or a criminal record. Women can be detained the standards of that detention would be altered.

    – they are all in the final report now forwarded to the Human Rights Commission for enactment at Westminster, conveniently bypassing Stormont and the “minority objections” of everyone we voted to send there.

    As pointed out, people voted for this in the Agreement so there is nothing ‘convenient’ about it.

    Hope that helps.

  • Newton Emerson

    When I first wrote about the age of criminal responsibility being raised to 16 then 18, two weeks ago, those were the proposals contained in the published draft.
    They were replaced on Monday by a proposal that: “Every person under the age of 18 years has the right to be treated as a child for the purposes of the administration of criminal justice.”
    This appears to me to be hair-splitting but it is why I wrote in this article that the forum proposed “treating everyone below 18 as a child”.
    This is an accurate description of the final report.

  • TAFKABO

    Hogan.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for reducing quangos and introducing accountability at every possible stage of the process. I’m just too cynical to think that this is achievable.

    Newton.

    I hardly think that telling us what New Labour pledged to do is the strongest argument, my whole point was that regardless of who you vote for, the government always gets in.
    For all their faults, at least some on the Liberal Left are trying to look at new models of government.

  • joeCanuck

    When the desire for a BOR was first raised, to deal with any special provisions over and above the European rights which might be “needed” in N.I., I was in favour of it.
    But having seen this monstrosity of a document, I’d now say forget it.

    One thing we do need is a balancing of the “right” to march with the right of people not to be put out.
    If it wasn’t for happy memories of fancy dress parades, I would ban marches completely The right to free assembly and the right to demonstrate should be sufficient.

  • Newton Emerson

    Mark, in response to your points, these are the relevant “recommendations” contained in the final draft. Bear in the mind that “a child” is anyone under 18:

    Public authorities shall provide a range of procedural options as alternatives to the criminalisation of children, including family based support and community based diversion, that are in the child’s best interests. They shall ensure that all programmes or initiatives are effectively regulated and monitored to protect the child.

    A child shall not be detained or imprisoned except as a measure of last resort and in accordance with the law and then only for the shortest appropriate period of time. A child in detention shall be treated in a humane manner that conforms with human dignity.

    No child or other vulnerable person should be subjected to the ordinary criminal process unless the seriousness of the offence and the interests of justice so require, the level of maturity and understanding of the person being taken into account in determining the appropriate process.

    …and finally, the following recommendation which was originally introduced with a note that most women in custody in Northern Ireland are in custody for failing to pay fines:

    No one shall be deprived of liberty on the ground of failure to pay maintenance or a debt, fine or tax.

    My point in the article about the convenience of bypassing Stormont is not a denial that we voted for a Bill of Rights (although we certainly didn’t vote for this all-encompassing monstrosity). But the prospect of bypassing the assembly at the final hurdle has been a major attraction for the rights sector and a serious cause of its incontinent everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach. That is what will shortly sink the whole project, as you have predicted.

  • fair play

    They were replaced on Monday by a proposal that: “Every person under the age of 18 years has the right to be treated as a child for the purposes of the administration of criminal justice.”
    Posted by Newton Emerson on Apr 04, 2008 @ 02:32 PM

    Newton,

    The age of criminal responsiblity was not replaced with the words above. The age of criminal responsibilty is clearly stated on page 127, article 7, that it shall be raised in line with international standards.(current international standards are “not less than 12”) In the same provision, it was stated that a child shall be defined as someone under 18, which is the standard. The definition of a child, and the age of criminal responsibility are two different things.

    Also, your article mentioned that civic society, outnumbered the political representatives. They did not. 14 each.

  • Rapunsel

    And what’s wrong with treating everyone below the age of 18 as a child when that is what they are in most other facets of life? If those on the right want to lower the age of criminal responsibility are they prepared to follow through and lower the voting age, change the regulations on children and young people working, the age of consent etc etc?

    I kinow little about this wholoe process and on the whole sometimes enjoy Newton Emerson’s columns even if I don’t always agree with them. But increasingly I find them reactionary and I don’t think he’d be making the argument about the democratic deficit if the DUP and SF were in agreement and giving public backing to the ” left liberal agenda ” of this whole process

  • Newton Emerson

    Fair Play, again I do not understand this accusation of inaccuracy. Each forum working group had 10 members and a convenor, apart from the economic and social working group which had 20 members and a convenor.
    These consisted of 1 rep each from the DUP, SF, UUP, SDLP and Alliance plus 5 reps from the rights sector. The economic and social working group doubled these numbers.
    But in all bar two cases the convenor was from a special interest group, as follows:

    Children and Young People – Sorcha McKenna, “Children and Young People’s Sector”

    Women – Margaret Ward, “Women’s Sector”

    Criminal Justice – Rev Dr Samuel Hutchinson (Jesus sector?)

    Culture and Identity – Nelson McCausland MLA

    Civil and Political – Domhnall Ó Cobhthaigh, Sinn Féin

    Economic and Social – Patricia McKeown, “Trade Union Sector”

    Implentation – Aideen Gilmore, CAJ “Human Rights Sector”

    So the special interest groups had a majority presence overall. They were also able to create a majority even without the convenor by peeling off only one political rep on each working group. Guess how that turned out…? This was a very clear trap for Sinn Fein, in my opinion – and they walked right into it.

  • TAFKABO

    No one shall be deprived of liberty on the ground of failure to pay maintenance or a debt, fine or tax.

    Isn’t this already the case in Scotland?

  • Mark McGregor

    Newt,

    You missed the first point.

    Are you admitting that effectively abolishing youth and female custody might be over-egging the pudding? Both forms of custody can still occur, as you note – for children as a ‘last resort’ (can’t see an issue with that) and for women, as everyone else, over issues more serious than unpaid fines. You seem to be making arguments for detention of children before examining other options and the detention of everyone for not paying fines but instead of explicitly stating those are your starting points use a red-menance/baby-killers go free spin.

    My final point was over the use of the word ‘convenient’ when there was nothing convenient about it. It was negotiated, agreed and voted on.

    I don’t wish to seem unkind but these issues in your piece make it seem like Daily Mail scaremongering over balanced examination of legitimate concerns.

    But at least we agree the whole thing will come to nothing.

  • Bob Wilson

    Any bets on Shaun Woodward waving this around and then promising to water it down – if only DUP will give him a date for in the Autumn (before his 10 Dec deadline for bringing forward legislation on the Bill of Rights) for devolved policing and justice?

  • Newton Emerson

    Mark, that is a reason I wrote “effectively”. The original proposal was more specific in its intent but the outworking of that intent is still contained in the final draft. I don’t think I’m scaremongering – I’ve said quite clearly that I don’t think any of this will work. My point is that really quite serious and persistent attempts to seize power in the Stormont power vacuum are ongoing, and they have latterly crystalised around the Bill of Rights.
    Also, the Daily Mail is great entertainment and citing it as an insulting reference is becoming a bit of a cliché…

    TAFKABO, if it is the case that Scotland no longer imprisons fine defaulters then it has done so without a Bill of Rights. So presumably the Scottish courts (and the Scottish parliament) still have some leeway. Making a “right” out of this provision would render any sentence short of custody unenforcable – another example of the unintended consequences of activist absolutism.
    I don’t think people should be imprisoned for not paying fines either but I also don’t think they should ignore fines because they can’t go to prison. Sorting out a paradox like that on a case by case basis requires a subtler approach than carving half-baked rules in stone.

  • Mark McGregor

    Newton,

    The Convenors did not count as an extra opinion or vote on the working groups. Only the members’ submitted opinions were included in the working group papers.

  • Newton Emerson

    Yes, Mark, I know, which is why I wrote that special interest groups outnumbered politicians on the forum. I did not write that they outvoted them on the working groups, but that they had relegated political objections to footnotes regardless and arrogantly “recommended” their own agenda. This is the point of the start of my article.

  • fair play

    They were replaced on Monday by a proposal that: “Every person under the age of 18 years has the right to be treated as a child for the purposes of the administration of criminal justice.”
    Posted by Newton Emerson on Apr 04, 2008 @ 02:32 PM

    Newton,

    The age of criminal responsiblity was not replaced with the words above. The age of criminal responsibilty is clearly stated on page 127, article 7, that it shall be raised in line with international standards.(current international standards are “not less than 12″) In the same provision, it was stated that a child shall be defined as someone under 18, which is the standard. The definition of a child, and the age of criminal responsibility are two different things.

    Also, your article mentioned that civic society, outnumbered the political representatives. They did not. 14 each.

    Posted by fair play on Apr 04, 2008 @ 02:56 PM

    Newton,

    My point on the age of crimial responsibility still stands, and you have choosen to ignore it.!
    The point you make is that 5 reps each on the working groups, between political and civic representation, isn’t equal!? As pointed out elsewhere, the convenor of each group did not have a noted opinion, and in any case, the final document was subject to the Forum, with equal representation.

  • Newton Emerson

    Fair Play, I posted above that I consider it hair-splitting to remove mention of raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 then replacing it with a line on treating everyone under 18 as a child for the purposes of the administration of justice. Such a provision makes setting the age of criminal responsibility lower than 18 irrelevant for the purposes of the administrationo of criminal justice – and I believe that is precisely the intention.
    I answered Mark’s point on the representation on the forum above.
    Is everyone now quite satisifed that I am not just making this stuff up? Your alternative is to plough through 245 pages of this stuff yourself… which would serve you right.

  • fair play

    Newton,

    Final say on this… as its friday afternoon, and…well…, i have better things to do!
    I repeat,

    The age of criminal responsibilty is clearly stated on page 127, article 7, that it shall be raised in line with international standards.(current international standards are “not less than 12″) In the same provision, it was stated that a child shall be defined as someone under 18, which is the standard. The definition of a child, and the age of criminal responsibility are two different things.

    This is not hair splitting. They are two very different provisions, with different legal implications. Do a law degree over the weekend and think about it REAL HARD!

  • Newton Emerson

    Then why did the forum “recommend” making them the same thing by adding that anyone under 18 is a child “for the purposes of the adminstration of justice”?

    As for your point about needing a law degree, I refer you to Mark’s point that we are not talking about the law – we are talking about proposals to a quango. However, I do see an irony in all the forum’s aggressive talk on “justiciability”. The Bill of Rights process has now gone so far beyond its remit that any legislation arising from it would hardly survive a judicial review itself.

  • fair play

    anyone under 18 is a child “for the purposes of the adminstration of justice”
    Yes … thats correct. If a person is not an adult, it must be a child, for the adminstration of justice. The age at which a child is held criminally responsible, is the subject that was discussed, and it was agreed that the age at which a child is held criminally responsible, will be in line with international standards.

    Example: if the age was raised to 12, then those over 12 will be held criminally responsible for their actions, but in law will be still be treated as a child until 18. they will not be detained with adults, etc. They do not get off with it. The punishment will be different if they are above, or below 12, depending on the age of criminal responsibilty. But they will always be treated different from Adults until they are 18.

    I know i have laboured the point somewhat..!! But does this make sense. I am not going to take cheap pot shots, but want to make the point clear. It is an important issue, and the emotive nature of some of the reporting does not help the public understanding of the issue. Newton, honestly, i just want you to understand. Please God FFS….. understand!!

  • Newton Emerson

    “I know i have laboured the point somewhat..!!”

    You said it.

    In an attempt to move this conversation on from inaccurate accusations of inaccuracy, may I present my own personal favourite “recommendation” from the forum report, where it appears beneath the somewhat alarming heading “Freedom from abuse and exploitation”:

    Public authorities shall take positive steps to encourage the media to recognise their responsibility in the promotion of child rights and the protection of children.

    Does this mean that if I write another article on how useless the children’s commissioner is I’ll get carted off to prison? Or will I just get a fine that I don’t have to pay?

  • fair play

    FFS.. I give up!!

    Will you not acknowledge that their is point to my previous post and that you have mislead the public.
    I thought it was a simple misunderstanding. However, it seems to be deliberate, and therefore your reporting, is agenda driven.

    I suggest the next time you write an article that is a)funny, b)Intelligent, c)accurate, you give me a shout. Until then i will be willfully ignoring you. You will go away eventually!!

  • Newton Emerson

    I’m not a reporter, I’m a columnist. There is a considerable difference. The watering down of the original proposal for raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 has been reported as fact. This fact, in my opinion, represents the continuance of a clear agenda by the rights sector to persue the abolition of all forms of youth custody. I think I have justified my opinion here at length. There is no inaccuracy in my article.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Isn’t handing this report over to the human rights commission just leaving it in the hands of the very sort of people who wrecked the report in the first place?

  • nuj

    Did i not see a leading story/headline in the irish news, by newton emerson. Would you , the columnist, not be related to this reporter?

    Or does opinion now appear on the front of our newspapers, masked as reporting!!

  • Newton Emerson

    That was reporting – I am capable of doing both you know. Was there an inaccuracy in the report about the draft proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 16 then 18? Was it flagged as opinion? I certainly was not made aware of any error in it nor did I express any opinion in the report.

    This is why my opinion on the subject appeared in a subsequent opinion column. I can hardly believe I have to explain this to an adult. You are over 18, aren’t you? Or is it 12?

  • willis

    Am I dreaming?

    A Newt – Fair Play slugfest!

    I confess

    I am a fully paid up member of the “Rights Sector” along with the Catholic Church and The Chambers of Commerce.

    A careful reading of the report (freely available)

    http://www.billofrightsforum.org/bill_of_rights_final.pdf

    Reveals that a broad range of opinion in NI has a broad range of opinions.

    The only thing I found surprising was the enlightenment of the Chambers of Commerce.

  • aquifer

    I would suggest that a bill of rights should not be very prescriptive or it endangers the primacy of the democratic process, which is fragile enough around here.

    So what can a bill of rights for NI usefully do?

    1 Ensure that people have full access to democratic processes including peaceful protest and provision of official information. With the web available, freedom of information is now cheaper than filing and paying people to find the stuff. Its a great antidote to begrudgery and paranoia too.

    2 Ensure that people who cannot or do not have full access due to sex age disability language have safeguards and compensating support. When will we have civics taught in school? Why are representatives chosen by geographic communities when politics is made by communities of interest? and when territorial disputes are the rotten core of political failure here? How can women participate fully when they are usually also expected to look after their children?

    3 Ensure that the state does not collude in allowing groups to oppress individuals. i.e. That individuals are entitled to full protection of their physical safety by the law, and that the state is not entitled to tolerate threat and oppression at any level within the territory. The victimisation of individuals here needs exemplary suppression, and rarely gets it. The states’ suppression of extremes of violence is a subsidy to the ransid politics that produces them.

    Having accessible and speedy restitution is also worth a lot when the law seems reserved for perps millionaires and neer-do-wells. Civil Rights should be be for everyone everywhere, like the national health service.

  • The Human Rights industry bears a striking resemblance to Orwell’s Animal Farm. On Animal Farm, despite all the nice talk about equality and fair play, there was huge hypocrisy underneath the surface. The Human Rights industry talks at great length about equality, fairness, justice etc., but beneath the fine talk there is another agenda.

    For example, as regards abortion there are three sets of rights – those of the unborn child, those of the mother and those of the father. If the Human Rights industry really was motivated by a desire for fair play for all, it would acknowledge this fact. Instead it ignores the rights of the unborn child and of the father and repeats the usual feminist lines about women’s rights. A great example of such hypocrisy within the Human Rights industry is Amnesty International’s pro – abortion stance while at the same time proclaiming that we should “protect the human”.

    Fr Tim Bartlett was fully justified in boycotting the launch of this Bill of Rights draft document because it fails to recognise the rights of the unborn child. The whole Human Rights industry is a coalition of left wing groups looking to impose their views upon the rest of us and, in many cases, over – ride the democratic wishes of the people. If they get what they want, we will have a society where:

    1) Abortion is freely available, including the abortion of unborn children with Downs Syndrome, Cleft Palate and Club Foot in very late pregnancy.

    2) A society where children’s “rights” trump adult attempts to impose discipline with disastrous consequences as regards discipline and learning in schools. This will have the knock – on effect of greatly reduced discipline on a societal level with increased violence on our streets.

    3) A society where radical feminist views against marriage and men hold sway, so that fathers become increasingly marginalised and there is greatly increased divorce and family breakdown.

    4) A society where the State has an ever increasing foothold inside the doors of family life, so that parents feel increasingly marginalised. An example of such denigration of parental roles will be the Human Rights industry’s ever increasing zeal to bring in anti – smacking legislation. They will claim this is to “protect” children but it will really be designed to emasculate parents and hand – over their power to social workers and other state agencies.

    5) A society where political correctness rules and acts as a frightening deterrent (just like Napoleon’s dogs in Animal Farm) to free speech. People will become increasingly frightened to criticise any of the left wing groups who make up the Human Rights industry because they will have managed to label such criticism as “hate crime”. Meanwhile criticism of other non – designated victim groups, especially the Catholic Church, will be applauded.

    6) A society where, after the father has been given his marching orders, increased hostility to the stay – at – home mother will begin to surface. There will also be a big push for a complete secularisation of education and for the introduction of compulsory sex education from the age of six or seven.

    7) A society where children become abandoned to make their own decisions, rather than being given adeqaute and necessary guidance. This will result because parents and teachers will feel increasingly disenfanchised by the Human Rights industry with its children’s “rights” language and they will feel increasingly afraid to discipline children due to fear of being sued.

    This Human Rights craic is only the front for a much bigger agenda, which is to radically remake society in accordance with radical left – wing principles. These people use political correctness to silence debate and disguise their radical agenda under a cloak of Human Rights language. And, up until now, Newton Emerson seems to be one of the very few people in this part of the world who has noticed that the Human Rights’ industry’s sums don’t quite add up.

  • IJP

    I genuinely think the problem here was more the process than the people involved in it.

    The clash between the “civic society reps” and the elected reps, particularly Unionists, was entirely predictable. The task at hand was for the Chair to pursue a path whereby the demands/desires of those “civic society reps” would be turned into something broadly acceptable to elected reps. I have to say that, from the very outset, he refused to do this, failing to tackle even basic issue such as, well, what the Forum was supposed to be doing.

    I do not blame civic society reps, as advocates for their sector, for trying to ensure all their demands/desires appear in a Bill of Rights. The problem is, that is not what the Forum was designed to do. It was, in fact, designed to inform the Human Rights Commission which, in turn, is to advise the Secretary of State. No one is due to draft a Bill of Rights!

    Furthermore, the debate is not about whether NI gets a Bill of Rights. NI already has a Bill of Rights. The issue is whether it is sufficient. This is a legitimate debate – but again, so intent were people on drafting a Bill in order to get their bits into it, that this debate was forgotten and turned into the usual “evil versus good” that Newton hints at.

    My point, really, is that discussion of the outcome has become one of “evil civil society reps” (how dare they try to represent their position?) versus “evil Unionists” (how dare they not love kittens?), but this is unfair all-round. It was the process that was flawed and, by extention, the Chair’s handling of the process early on – if you’ve no foundations, don’t be surprised if the building doesn’t stay up too long.

    Instead of confrontation, we should be seeking a public debate about two things on the back of this: first, the actual question posed ten years ago this week – what, if any, are the “particular circumstances of NI” and the “supplemental rights” it requires; second, how are we going to move away from the farcical notion that all our problems are to be solved through legislation and rights (and middle-class consultants’ reports), and instead get people to take responsibility for their own communities, their own fellow citizens, and their own future opportunities?

  • IJP

    aquifier

    Civil Rights should be be for everyone everywhere, like the national health service.

    A well-made and important point.

    Civic society reps seem too intent on rights documented in such a way that they would inevitably become enforced by judges rather than by citizens acting responsibly – which in turn would advantage those who are better educated and those who can afford to turn to the courts. Result: exclusion of vulnerable minorities.

    Nationalists seem intent on sectarianised rights – accessible only to those prepared to assimilate into one of two pre-defined communities, with the state entitled to label them if they refuse. Result: exclusion of vulnerable minorities.

    Would we want a health service accessible only to the well educated and rich? Would we want a health service accessible only to those who agree to label themselves in one of two ways the State determines allowable?

    So why do so many make demands that would result in similar for human rights?

  • Slugger Reader

    [i]They were replaced on Monday by a proposal that: “Every person under the age of 18 years has the right to be treated as a child for the purposes of the administration of criminal justice.”
    Posted by Newton Emerson on Apr 04, 2008 @ 02:32 PM

    Newton,

    The age of criminal responsiblity was not replaced with the words above. The age of criminal responsibilty is clearly stated on page 127, article 7, that it shall be raised in line with international standards.(current international standards are “not less than 12″) In the same provision, it was stated that a child shall be defined as someone under 18, which is the standard. The definition of a child, and the age of criminal responsibility are two different things.

    Also, your article mentioned that civic society, outnumbered the political representatives. They did not. 14 each.

    Posted by fair play on Apr 04[/i]

    I think Newton’s point on the hair-splitting is fair if you read the quote he cited closely. Even though “the definition of a child, and the age of criminal responsibility are two different things” the cited quote doesn’t serve to define a child as someone under 18 as you stated, it is simply a stipulation about how people below that age are to be treated “for the purposes of the administration of criminal justice.”

    In the UK, a ‘child’ is anyone under 14 and a a ‘young person’ is anyone between 14 and 18 with both child terms having the same meaning in law. A child below the age of criminal responsibility (under the age of 10) cannot be charged with a criminal offense. This was lowered from 14 in 1998 along with the presumption that children under 14 didn’t know the difference between right and wrong. The age of criminal responsibility is most European countries is between 13 and 16 with the relevant agents UN seeking upward mobility. So it is not surprising that ‘international standards’ for the age of criminal responsibility should be preferred by the ‘liberal left’ over the lower UK age.

    The Home Office reported that 3,000 crimes occurred last year by children under the age of criminal responsibility, including the one below whereby a boy of 7 inflicted multiple stab wounds on a Scottish woman.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/6457937.stm

  • Granni Trixie

    Point of information – although the cost of the BOR Forum was covered by government and therefore the taxpayer, our old friend chuck feeney has paid a waudge o’ money to the HR Consortium – to consult. But because they have not yet used up that money they have another year to do so. Incidentally, the Consortium claims to represent a goodly number of groups but all I know is that two groups to which I belonged have been defunct for over 10 years – trust this is not representative.

  • Brian Crowe

    IJP’s critique of the process is a good summary. The process, very clearly, was fundamentally flawed. There was no consensus-building in BORF – the levels of support listed in the final report make that self-evident.

    The well-rehearsed position of those who desire a so-called ‘maximalist’ bill of rights is indicated in the BORF Report. This – as IJP says – is nothing new. What is much more significant is the demonstration of a complete absence of cross-community support.

    This is where I would, respectfully, take issue with Newton’s article which interprets BORF almost entirely in the context of the DUP-SF relationship. BORF was much more interesting than that. Note the places in the Report where Alliance either abstained or voted no. The fact that the position statements of the DUP and UUP were shared/joint statements is also significant.

    Nor was BORF a nat/republican v unionist contest. The debates that occurred in BORF were very, very similar to the debates that have happened in other jurisdictions in which those propose an entrenched, justiciable bill of rights come up against those who adhere to the parliamentary system – Canada is the most obvious example.

    It is also worth nothing that while the SDLP and Sinn Fein positions were broadly similar, SDLP demonstrated a much greater willingness to engage on the parity of esteem issues mentioned by the Agreement with regards to supplementary rights.

    Another thing IJP is entirely correct on – BORF was about informing NIHRC, who then advise the SoS. Well, the BORF report does indeed inform NIHRC – that there is, quite simply, no cross-community support for the sort of bill of rights envisaged in the report. Tuesday’s debate in the Assembly will do likewise.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Newton’s piece is well put. The fundamental concern should be the shift from those in political office making these decisions to those in a court making them. I like many of the members of the high court and fully respect their views but I didn’t vote for them and I won’t get a chance to. The problem with so broadly drafted a bill of rights is that issues that should rightfully be entirely within the remit of those we elect will instead fall to a court. To ask a court to decide the definition of continually improving standard of living is ridiculous. That’s a major political issue, should everyone have it I don’t know but it’s a choice that should properly be made by our elected politicians and what if anything is done to affect the policy choice is similarly up to them. For those slow learners in the human rights industry that is called ‘democracy’ you might care to study it sometime.

    We have gone through turmoil to get our own government and to at last have locally directly elected politicians making these choices and now we change that and let unelected and socially elite members of the judiciary do it instead. It’s just ridiculous.

    Willowfield was quite right that many of the rights in the document are already contained in the ECHR and courtesy of the Human Rights Act 1998 they are enforceable rights in UK law. This is not about creating basic human rights that has already been done, the UK is not some tin pot dictatorship it has committed itself to many international human rights standards and through the ECHR, which is an amazing act of rights protection in itself, it is committed to a basket of basic human rights that are agreed across a commonality of millions of Europeans. I like kittens and I am fully supportive of the right to life stated in Article 2 or the provisions against torture in Article 3, not sure our DFM can claim that, the basic basket of agreed civic human rights are already protected in UK law. The questions that go beyond these affirmed basic democratic rights are ones for politicians. Just because you call it a right doesn’t make it so. Dressing up your favorite wolf of a political pet policy in the sheep’s clothing of rights is just dishonest and is an attempt to circumvent normal democracy.

    One would hope that the NICHR which by law is to offer the secretary of state advice consistent with paragraph 4 of the human rights section of the Belfast Agreement, Section 69(7) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, will take the shearing knife to the suggestions and come up with something sensible but of course it won’t because Monica doesn’t really like democracy either so she will I have no doubt ignore her legal remit and submit this claptrap to the Secretary of State. Really it’s got to the point that the rights industry need a good dose of their own medicine and someone needs to ask the courts to define section 4 of the BFA.

    [i] The new Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (see paragraph 5 below) will be invited to consult and to advise on the scope for defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to those in the European Convention on Human Rights, to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, drawing as appropriate on international instruments and experience. These additional rights to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem, and – taken together with the ECHR – to constitute a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Among the issues for consideration by the Commission will be: • the formulation of a general obligation on government and public bodies fully to respect, on the basis of equality of treatment, the identity and ethos of both communities in Northern Ireland; and • a clear formulation of the rights not to be discriminated against and to equality of opportunity in both the public and private sectors [/i]