The UK must examine May’s plan to quit rights court

Morning View
Morning View

Theresa May’s suggestion that the UK should withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) deserves serious consideration.

The Home Secretary is advocating the intriguing combination of staying in the EU while walking away from the rights treaty (a combination that critics say is legally impossible). Most people who want to quit the ECHR also want to quit the EU.

But there are grave problems with the ECHR, of which the ruling that Britain must give prisoners a vote was only the most visible example. The UK is rightly ignoring that order.

As a society we need to examine how to make prison tougher and sentences longer and how to ensure that in Northern Ireland our brave prison officers are not made to feel like they have to tiptoe round violent dissident inmates (who are indulged by their apologists every time they stage a protest).

Mrs May’s proposal has been met with uproar.

Rachel Logan, of Amnesty, is correct when she says that British people helped build the convention at the end of World War II but wrong when she says that Mrs May is betraying that heritage. Powerful bodies such as the ECHR can mutate over time. A treaty that might be appropriate at one point in history might not be appropriate a century or so later.

The ECHR, or the fact of it (as anticipated by the Human Rights Act), is the ultimate reason for increasingly alarming barriers to action against terrorists, such as deportation.

All western countries now face the potentially catastrophic combination of Islamic terror and weapons of mass destruction. Only foolish people do not see that the fanatics behind September 11, Madrid 2004, July 7 London 2005, Paris 2015 and Brussels this year would use nuclear bombs if they could.

The balance between human rights and safety has moved too far in favour of terrorists, as it was in NI during the Troubles.

Now, however, we are talking about terrorists who would merrily take out a whole city. If leaving the ECHR makes that less likely, then it might have to happen.