Some people say there’s no reason to worry about the Tories and their threat to repeal the Human Rights Act. After all they aren’t considering pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights (which would be a grave development indeed), so surely it’s just a reformulation of rights and responsibilities, the likes of which Jack Straw is already considering? It seems their threat is downright dangerous:
Here’s what he told the Politics Show:
The moment a burglar steps over your threshold, and invades your property, with all the threat that gives to you, your family and your livelihood, I think they leave their human rights outside.
Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling has previously denied that a Tory government would provide householders with a “licence to kill” but Cameron’s words appear to promise just that.
The principled case against this position is that it would, in theory, allow householders to murder and torture burglars and thus endorse mob rule. The pragmatic case against it is that it could actually increase the danger to the public. As Jenni Russell recently argued in the Sunday Times, burglars who are aware that any break-in could result in their death are far more likely to come armed with guns or knives and be prepared to use them first.
It is simply dishonest for large sections of the right to continue to claim that the existing law does not provide individuals with a decent right to self-defence. It recognises that householders may, in extremis, use what appears to be excessive force. More sensible application of the current law (Munir Hussain should have received a suspended sentence), rather than a dangerous new law is needed.
In declaring that burglars “leave their human rights outside” Cameron, a supposedly “liberal conservative”, has adopted the language of the demagogue and the populist. He should retract his comments immediately.
He should indeed. The whole point about human rights is that they are universally applicable to all people at all times, under all circumstances. It’s an ominous sign that the likely next PM doesn’t just not believe in the rule of law, but doesn’t even comprehend human rights. Articles 1-3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reinforce their universal applicability, and it makes you wonder what Cameron wants to replace the Human Rights Act with. A Prime Minister who wilfully conflates rights under domestic criminal law with universal human rights would be a dangerous man indeed.