By Ray Fleming

Here we go again -- Britain's Conservative government trying to boost its anti-EU attitude by criticising judgements and opinions of the European Court of Human Rights The first point to make (for the umpteenth time) is that the Court is not part of the EU; the second is that the British minister at the front of the criticism is Chris Grayling, the first Lord Chancellor to lack legal experience since 1672. His latest attack is on the opinion of the Court's judges that UK “whole life” sentences which deny any possibility of appeal breach human rights and that an opportunity to enter an appeal after twenty-five years of imprisonment should be permitted. Such sentences are given to criminals guilty of murder in barbaric or heinous circumstances. The issue is not whether the sentences should be passed but whether the guilty person should be denied the distant possibility of an appeal. Mr Grayling said that British people would be “deeply frustrated” by this opinion but I rather doubt that they will have noticed it or be bothered by it. Scotland has no whole-life sentence and in Northern Ireland it is accompanied by the right to appeal. This government tries to belittle the Court of Human Rights whenever it can but the effect is more often to diminish its own reputation for respect of the independent judiciary which Britain was instrumental in creating.


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