When the Tories proudly unveiled their proposals for a “British Bill Of Rights”, to the general approval of their friends in the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate, one point pushed by the press was that rulings by the European Court Of Human Rights (ECtHR) were binding on the UK, because we had signed up to the European Convention On Human Rights (ECHR).
Worse, we had also passed the Human Rights Act (HRA), which was not merely bad, it was “Labour’s Human Rights Act”. That the Tory leadership at the time supported this legislation is not revealed to the readers. This bolstered the narrative, but the non-disclosure, along with the idea that those ghastly foreigners are telling us what to do, has today left some with egg very much on face.
Why so? Well, despite the Mail telling “End of human rights farce: In a triumphant week for British values, Tories unveil plans to give Parliament and judges power to IGNORE the European Court and its crazy decisions” and the Telegraph “the European Courts would not be able to require the UK to change British laws, with its judgements being treated as ‘advisory’ rather than binding”, both have it wrong.
Because, quite apart from Dominic Grieve, who happens to be a Tory, warning “The proposals represent a failure of ambition by the Conservative Party on the global promotion of human rights”, there is the minor point that decisions handed down by the ECtHR are not actually binding on the Supreme Court here in the UK. Times, Sun, Express, Mail and Telegraph readers need to think about that.
We know this to be a fact because the Independent (note, not one of the titles mentioned above) yesterday reported on “Lord Neuberger on the Supreme Court: Five key cases from its first five years”. Lord Neuberger has selected five cases that have come before the Supreme Court (SC) since its inception in 2009, and it is one of these that underscores the point on the ECtHR.
In “Horncastle and hearsay evidence”, we find that “the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg ruled if a person was convicted on the strength of hearsay evidence, then their human right to fair trial would be infringed. The British Government felt this stance posed a real risk to justice – and the SC justices agreed”. Lord Neuberger elaborated on the decision.
“Although normally we follow the Strasbourg cases, in the Horncastle case we didn't ... We explained in some detail why we thought our system was fair and that Strasbourg had in fact gone wrong”. And guess what? “After the ruling, the ECtHR altered its original decision. Lord Neuberger showed ‘there can be genuine, civilised and constructive dialogue between the UK courts and the ECtHR’”.
Press caught misleading their readers once again. No change there, then.