Thursday, 4 November 2010

Scotland: a serial human rights offender

Don't believe a word Kenny McAskill says, the Scottish Justice system doesn't get human rights. It ignores judgements of the European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] with abandon. I remember sitting in the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh in 2003 I think it was listening to the case Napier vs The Lord Advocate wherein a former remand prisoner at Glasgow's Barlinnie jail successfully argued that the Scottish Executive had breached his human rights by forcing him to 'slop-out' [urinate and defecate into a plastic bucket] despite a ruling some years earlier by the European Court of Human Rights that such practices were now illegal. Only the prospect of paying out tens of millions of pounds of public money in compensation to thousands of other prisoners led the then Justice Secretary Jim Wallace to finally end this sickening practice.
You would have thought that lesson would have taught Scotland's legal establishment they needed to comply with international human rights legislation but not a bit of it.
Last week a ruling in the UK Supreme Court in London summarily rejected pleas by the Scottish judicial establishment to deny legal representation to suspects held in police custody. The Cadder case forced Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill to introduce emergency legislation to the Scottish Parliament the next day - legislation, it must be pointed out, which the Scottish Human Rights Commissioner Professor Allan Miller was not even consulted on and which he believes actually makes things worse and is a further breach of ECHR articles. These new laws were not introduced by McAskill because he was keen to ensure everyone gets legal advice, no, they were hurriedly enacted for fear of millions more compensation being paid out.
This week - I wonder if you can see a pattern forming here - Scotland suffered its third European defeat when via Westminster David Cameron this time had to anounce that 70,000 citizens in Britains jails [including 7,000 in Scotland] would now have their democratic right to vote returned to them because the current practise of denying them it is another breach of ECHR.
Of course all this extension of human rights has been just the signal the reactionaries in the Tory Party, Labour Party and SNP needed to start screaming 'blue murder' about Europe interfering in our wonderful justice system. Aye right! No wonder so many people stress the need to get SSP MSP's back into Holyrood!

* I was a member of the Scottish Parliaments Justice 2 Committee between 2003-2007.

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