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Justice Secretary rejects human rights criticisms

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Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has rejected criticism of his party's proposals to withdraw the UK from EU human rights law, stressing that he had consulted a range of QCs and other experts before producing the paper.

He also insisted the current Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, believed the plans were "fine, viable and legal" and pointed out that he had a longstanding disagreement on the issue with Mr Grieve - who was sacked in David Cameron's last reshuffle.

Vince Cable: Human rights plans a 'retrograde' step

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Proposed Conservative Party plans to pull the UK out of the European Court of Human Rights are a "very retrograde step" Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has said.

Speaking on a visit to Edinburgh, he continued:

We do value human rights in our society - it's what our democracy is all about - and we also value a system of law in which judges rather than politicians make the final decisions, and it's very important that we retain that core and that framework.

We would see a gradual decline in the credibility of our legal system because, essentially, in order to score cheap populist points, the legal system is being undermined and judges are being undermined.

– Vince Cable MP


Tory human rights plans contain 'number of howlers'

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The former Attorney General has rubbished plans by the Conservative Party to strip the European court of their power to enforce human rights in the UK.

Dominic Grieve QC slammed proposals by the current attorney Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, saying that they contained a series of "howlers" and were not properly thought through and that there was already plans in motion to reform the European Court of Human Rights in Strausbourg.

"All courts are ultimately human constructs and they will sometimes get things right and sometimes get things wrong," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"In many cases there is a misunderstanding of what the court does.

Even the paper which has just been produced by my colleague Chris Grayling includes in it a number of howlers which are simply factually inaccurate.

One howler is...where it says that the court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has prevented the imposition of whole life tariffs on whole life tariff prisoners in this country.

It hasn't. Its judgment never said that."

Mr Grieve added: "It seems to me it is factually inaccurate in what it says, and that is unfortunate.

Because if one is going to approach a complex subject I think it is very important that we should all collectively adopt a moderate and measured approach towards explaining what the issues are and what can and cannot be done."

Tories 'would make it harder for victims to enforce human rights'

Sean Humber, head of the human rights team at law firm Leigh Day, said it was "intellectually dishonest" to imply that scrapping the Human Rights Act would reduce the UK's human rights obligations as it would still be signed up to, and obliged to comply with, the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, and entirely cynically, by abolishing the Act and replacing it with some watered-down inferior imitation, the Conservatives would make it much harder for victims to enforce their human rights as they would then need to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

What is so wrong with wanting to live in a country where you have internationally recognised basic and fundamental rights by virtue of your existence as a human being that can be upheld by an independent judiciary and which an over-zealous state cannot take away?

Is this not a concept that Conservatives hold dear?

– Sean Humber, human rights lawyer

British Bill of Rights 'would diminish our freedoms'

Shami Chakrabarti, director of campaign group Liberty, said:

So finally the cards are on the table - and what a hand has been played.

As legally illiterate as politically provocative, this plan would gamble with our fragile Union and put us in breach of international law.

This so-called British Bill of Rights would diminish everyone's freedoms and make Government even less accountable in the future.

– Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty


Charity accuses Tories of 'setting themselves above the law'

Tim Hancock, campaigns director of Amnesty UK, said:

These proposals are nasty, spiteful and shameful. This is electioneering on the backs of Europe's most vulnerable.

Under these plans human rights would be reserved for only those people the Government decides should get them. This is a blueprint for human rights you would expect from a country like Belarus.

We should all be worried when politicians try to set themselves above the law.

It's a complete disgrace to see the government blackmail the Council of Europe.

– Tim Hancock, Amnesty

Right of victims to confront offenders reforms unveiled

The right of victims of crime to directly confront the offenders who damaged their lives in court is to be enshrined in law, the Government said.

Publicly-funded lawyers are also to be barred from taking on serious sex offence cases unless they have undergone specialist training.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling Credit: PA

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said a reform package - including the creation of a Victims' Information Service - would ensure the "highest emphasis" is put on those who suffer at the hands of criminals.

Under a code introduced last year, victims are able to choose to explain to the court and offender how a crime has affected them by reading out a Victim Personal Statement which is taken into account by judges when determining the sentence.

Stripping red tape for do-gooders 'common sense'

Removing red tape to protect good samaritans and responsible employers is "common sense", according to the Justice Secretary.

Plans to change the law so judges will have to give weight to factors when deciding negligence cases, including whether someone was acting responsibly, will give good samaritans the legal protection they deserve, Chris Grayling said.

I don't want us to be a society where people feel that they can't do the right thing for fear of breaking regulations or becoming liable if something goes wrong.

I don't want us to be a society where a responsible employer gets the blame for someone doing something stupid.

I want a society where common sense is the order of the day, and I believe this measure will help us get there.

– Chris Grayling

Protection for 'responsible employers and do-gooders'

Greater legal protection for responsible employers and do-gooders will be offered, if Government plans to strip red tape from "Britain's health and safety culture" go ahead.

Chris Grayling wants to offer more legal protection for Good Samaritans. Credit: PA

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wants to provide greater protection to those who end up involved in liability claims.

Measures are aimed at removing bureaucracy which sometimes deters would-be volunteers or helping a stranger, as they were worried about the threat of being sued for negligence.

Of the many people who do volunteer, research suggests that nearly half of them, 47%, are concerned about the risk of liability, he said.

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