Tuesday, October 26, 2010

EU Human Rights Too Much for Scots Tories

The Tories have a hate-hate relationship with all things European it seems. In the run up to the 2009 European elections the Liberal Democrats were going to highlight some of the areas of good that Europe were doing which the Tories wanted to scrap. You many have missed this message as it was drowned out by the cacophony of noise surrounding the Daily Telegraph's coverage of the MP's expenses.

However, it has reared its ugly head again. This time it has arisen from the case of Peter Cadder who has raised an issue from Scots Law in the UK Supreme Court following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in 2008: the case is set to conclude.

Currently the Scottish police can question a suspect for six hours without a lawyer present. Cadder as a teenager was convicted of assault and breach of the peace on evidence gained before his lawyer was present.

David McLetchie
MSP, former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said:

"This issue is now coming to a head.

"If the Supreme Court decides in favour of Cadder and the decision is retrospective, then the Scottish Conservatives stand ready to work with the rest of parliament to limit the damage.

"As we saw with the slopping-out fiasco, ECHR can often serve the interests of the criminal, rather than the law-abiding majority.

"Its incorporation into the Scotland Act in 1998 was an error of judgment which, 12 years on, needs to be reviewed."

There are two fundamental things wrong with Mr McLetchie's statement. First the assumption that only the guilty benefit from not having to give evidence until they have a lawyer present. I know there are times when constituents have in the past said they felt intimidated to say what officers have wanted to hear rather than the truth to get things dealt with more rapidly.

Also the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is there to serve the best interests of all parties. The accused, whether proven guilty or not proven, as well as the police officers responsible for the questioning. With an outside party present they cannot overstep their authority.

Therefore far from calling for the ECHR to be taken out of the Scotland Act (as indeed in Westminster) the Tories should be looking at the good that comes out of it. It is a pity that blind euro scepticism is so rampant in the Tory party when more of our world and especially crime knows and respects no borders

Read also: Lallands Peat Worrier scholarly take on the Cadder judgement even without the McLetchie angle. I see that Michael also beat me to this story as well as this Tweet. Grr!

Update: The Supreme Court has ruled that Scottish Police no longer have the right to question a suspect without their lawyer being present.


Lallands Peat Worrier said...

Thanks for the mention, Stephen, though I'm not sure how scholarly it is to anticipate the judgment in verse!

Just one point of clarification. Its an easy mistake to make, but as matters stand, the European Convention on Human Rights and Court are not European Union texts and bodies - but belong to the Council of Europe. The Council has a longer history - and significantly involves a far larger number of states. While the EU currently incorporates 27 states, the European Court of Human Rights has jurisdiction over 48 states, including Russia and Turkey.

While there is some talk about the EU's accession to ECHR, by and large human rights laws are nowt to do with our membership of the EU. Crashingly thick and dishonest, then, for Tory would-be MEPs to imply that their election to an EU body somehow impacts on "European" human rights law. Different bodies, different institutions.

Stephen Glenn said...

Yeah I know but Council of Europe instead of EU would ruin the flow of the title.


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