New challenge to European Convention on Human Rights

The latest British challenge to the European Convention on Human Rights and its Court  backed by a former law lord  was sparked by the comparatively minor requirement to give prisoners voting rights. Behind it lurks a renewed Sun campaign fuelled by counter terrorism advisor Lord Carlile’s final report, warning that the UK has become a “safe haven” for terrorists. In opposition David Cameron called for the replacement of the UK Human Rights Act with a new British Bill of Rights but this has now been watered down by setting up a commission. While this may appease right wing Tories for a time, the conflict will rumble on. Judges are indicating that even in the very unlikely event of the UK quitting the Convention, they will draw on the common law to support rights in much the same way as now.

In the end the UK Supreme Court gives final rulings but in compliance with the ECHR. The Guardian’s explanation of myths about the Convention is unlikely to appease critics, who nevertheless might pay more attention to the “margin of appreciation” the Court recognises for complying with its rulings. The latest wrangles will no doubt further complicate any final decision on an NI Bill of Human Rights.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London