|D.W. Cameron Batting for a hundred|
Continuing his legal fuckwittery, David Cameron, Prime Minister, has announced that he would like to see courts bowling defendants out with 100-year sentences because the nasty European Court of Human Rights has said that whole life sentences are unlawful in the case of Vinter v United Kingdom.
As usual I’m annoyed by this because it is nothing more than a bid to shift the politics of the UK in an ever more xenophobic direction.
The start of 2014 saw the Labour party, led by the son of an immigrant, shift a bit further to the right when they joined the Conservatives, UKIP and a collection of other anti-foreigner types by scaremongering about the hordes of Bulgarians and Romanians due to sweep across the UK on the 1st January 2014. Labour took the ironic decision to send another immigrant in the form of Keith Vaz (born in Aden, Yemen to Indian parents) to monitor the arrival of immigrants arriving in the UK. He was left looking somewhat stupid when flights arrived (often only two-thirds full despite claims by many than all flights were fully booked) carrying mostly people returning from their Christmas holidays rather than new immigrants coming here to steal, beg and claim benefits we were promised.
Given the political-classes hatred of all things foreign you shouldn’t be surprised to find out that the European Court of Human Rights did not ban the UK from imposing whole of life sentences on the most serious offenders. What the ECHR said is that such sentences breach article three of the European Convention on Human Rights because there is no mechanism for reviewing the sentences once passed to ensure that a whole life sentence remains appropriate.
A long long time ago in a slightly less xenophobic Britain we had a law called the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997, section 29 of which allowed the Secretary of State to release whole life prisoners on the recommendation of the Parole Board and following consultation with the Lord Chief Justice and the trial judge. Such reviews were carried out, I believe, 25-years after sentence. This provision allowed us to be certain that the whole life sentence remained correct and that the intervening years had not rendered the sentence unjust.
The Labour Government of Tony Blair enacted the Criminal Justice Act 2003, section 303(b)(i) of which abolished the Secretary of State’s power to release whole life prisoners and thus the review that went with that power was abolished as well. No equivalent power was handed to anybody else meaning that once a court imposes a whole of life sentence there is no further review unless the individual appeals – although it’s worth remembering that the review dealt with prisoners who were correctly sentenced not those who’s sentence was manifestly excessive at the time it was imposed.
The current Government under the increasingly foolish David Cameron and his increasingly frightening Secretary of State Theresa May seeks to argue that we should abolish the Human Rights Act 2008 and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. They cite the ECHR’s ruling in Vinter as a reason for this withdrawal. Let’s consider what other steps could be taken? Well, they could simply reinstate the review after 25-years, which would render the whole life sentence compliant with article 3 of the ECHR and thus lawful once again!
But then if they did that they’d lose all the capital built up in attacking “Europe” for their outrageous infringement of the sovereignty the UK and in doing so will again allow the British public to confuse the European Court of Human Rights with the European Union, which of course have nothing to do with one another.