1. ITV Report

Ministers meet to discuss European rights court

The Government is trying to secure a deal today to reduce the power of the European Court of Human Rights to over-rule British courts.

The Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is hosting a conference of representatives of the 47 member nations of the Council of Europe in Brighton.

The plenary room of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Credit: Reuters

The meeting comes amid ongoing row over attempts to deport terror suspect Abu Qatada from Britain.

Earlier this year in a speech at the Council of Europe, Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that the court's work defending human freedom and dignity was being put under threat due to public unease over some of its decisions.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Credit: Reuters

The member nations of Council of Europe oversee human rights, democracy and law and ensure any decisions made at the European Court of Human Rights are implemented.

  • Most cases brought by individuals who feel they have been denied justice by national courts
  • Individuals can bring a case without needing an expensive lawyer
  • The court will adhere to the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Rulings are legally binding
  • The Court's deliberations are always secret
  • Over 50,000 new applications are lodged every year
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke will chair today's conference in Brighton Credit: Reuters

Senior government officials say if reforms are agreed it would lead to fewer cases going to the court.

However, Europe's human rights judges would still consider key cases where they felt there was a serious issue or a new issue for them to consider.

Today's meeting follows months of negotiations in which there was widespread agreement that the system could be improved.

  • Of the court's backlog of more than 150,000 cases, around 90,000 would be found to be inadmissible
  • But around 25,000 were admissible and there were real concerns over how long serious cases were taking to be heard
  • From the UK, there were around 900 applications to the court last year, part of a backlog of some 3,000 UK cases, but only eight findings against the UK

The senior officials said they were:

Quietly confident that the draft agreement would be signed today, but it really is like herding cats to get 47 into one sack at one time.

– SENIOR GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is facing demands for an urgent statement to Parliament amid the confusion over the Government's latest bid to deport Abu Qatada.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said she must return to the Commons to explain what had happened.

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