Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Human Rights, Humane Responsibilities

Letters from A Tory is upset at the latest apparent abuse of the Human Rights Act, this time that a convicted paedophile immigrant cannot be deported back to his native country because he has a wife and child here and deporting him would breach his human right to a family life. Diddums.

As I commented to LfaT, I have long argued that the Human Rights Act should be amended to insert one small but significant defence: that no claim may be entertained based on an alleged violation of human rights, where the alleged violation was a consequential result of the violation of a like human right by the claimant.

Or, in short, if you interfere in someone else’s right to a family life by grooming their underage daughter, then you may not prevent yourself from being sentenced for that crime by claiming that the sentence violates your own right to a family life.

In combination with a statutory code of rights for suspects & prisoners that sets a baseline level of treatment, that would strike a fair and civilised balance between the conflicting interests.


  1. This case seems completely absurd. If the right to a family life is violated by being deported, then it is also violated by being in prison. Therefore, if putting him in prison is acceptable, so is deporting him.

    Nevertheless, the problem with your claim about HRs P, is that human rights are meant to be inalienable. Therefore, I think what is needed is a clearer and more limited definition of the right in the first place. E.g. Fred's right to life is not violated by Bill killing Fred in self-defence, because the right to life is properly the right of the innocent to life.

    Provided rights are properly described in the first place, there is no conflict. The fact that our human rights legislation results in so many conflicting rights, merely shows how amateurish it is.

  2. I take your point re inalienability. That probably goes to the level at which we are setting the rights, though.

    There is, I agree, a basic set of rights which apply regardless of prior conduct. I would not agree that any sentence (however harsh) could be visited upon any offender, for example. But if we take this route, then the human rights available to us all are dictated by the lowest common denominator; all of us are restricted to only those human rights that can be offered to the most evil of offenders.

    That may be right. Arguably, human rights consist of only those core values, and the other rights are properly left to general law. But we seem keen to establish a higher level, a greater degree of civil conduct, with the absurd results that we see.

    This minimalist route also places on us the burden of foreseeing in advance all possible arguments and claims, and creating the perfect set of rights, immune to all lawyerly argument. That is quite a challenge.

    So, I still think my approach is right. Whichever level of rights we choose, it creates an automatic compensator that limits the ability of the criminal to hold our rights against us.

  3. I fully agree. I also feel that anyone sent to prison for a crime should be allowed very limited human rights, ie the right to a dry cell, sufficient food to keep them alive, and medical treatment to the average standard and waiting time in the NHS. Anything else should be a privilege and have to be earned

  4. I agree P. We need human rights which are properly grounded philosophically and are neither more nor less than can be justified on those terms. Other things should be based on positive law and must not contradict those rights.

    The problem is the usual one: our society has lost the philosophical categories to achieve this. Everything is reduced (as Charles Moore recently pointed out) to the state, the individual and commerce. In such a context, "human rights" lack foundation, and are at best simply irrational (as here), or at worst power bids, stacked up, by the politically powerful for the politically powerful against the politically powerless (cf. the Labour Government).

    Quite how you over come the philosophical problem while retaining dogmatic positivistic secularism is the question we ought to be addressing. We won't of course address that question, because the present ideology supports the politically powerful against the politically powerless.

  5. @Albert
    " because the right to life is properly the right of the innocent to life."

    Advocating the reintroduction of the death penalty?


  6. Well spotted Measured!

    I'm against the death penalty, as you would expect. However there are circumstances in which the death penalty might be justified, it's just that the Catholic Church* thinks those circumstances never (or hardly ever) occur in the developed world.

    So there is no absolute right to life, and examples where life may legitimately be taken include in a just war or sometimes in self-defence.

    *This is the view of the Papacy. There are Catholics in America who think differently of course.

  7. Oh dear... although predictable.

    Of course, the proper response is to close the CRB and the Sex Offender's Register and place all Court judgements and sentences on a publicly searchable database. Courts are public authorities and their decisions are publicly announced (other than in exceptional circumstances). If someone who was there on the day can hear the judgement, why should not someone who wishes to search at a later date?

    Then, if you don't want to be on the publicly available offender's register, it's easy to avoid. Just don't rape anyone.

  8. Oh, and just for the record I am absolutely and implacably opposed to the death penalty.

    For those who are wrongly convicted, my reasons will be obvious.

    For those who are rightly convicted of an offence serious enough to merit the death penalty, then I regard a swift and humane death as too easy an option. I would rather they spent the rest of their life contemplating their error.