Human Rights Laws Cost Britain £42bn in Rulings and Payouts

Daniel Martin, Daily Mail (London), December 7, 2010

Membership of the European Court of Human Rights has cost UK taxpayers more than £42billion, according to a report.

The bill for complying with its judgments has seen money thrown at litigation and diverted from essential services, it is claimed.

The court, based in Strasbourg, France, has even forced Parliament to overturn a number of UK laws. It even made the government give prisoners the vote–despite strong opposition from ministers and the public.

Law and Order: The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, where membership is costing Britain billions

The court rules on cases brought against countries that have signed the European Convention on Human Rights, a code drawn up in the light of Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism.

The study into how much the convention and its court cost Britain, which became a signatory in 1950, was carried out by the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Dr Lee Rotherham, author of the report, said: ‘Fifty years on from the days of Stalin and Hitler, the Strasbourg court is no longer needed to protect us from a knock on the door at 3am, or being deported with a handcart. It carries an increasingly political agenda that is running roughshod over our laws and our courts, at major costs to the taxpayer and to business.

‘In the homeland of Magna Carta, you would hope that politicians and human rights lawyers might have more self confidence. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States get by very well without joining up to continental human rights courts. Britain can too.’

Controversial rulings include a transsexual serving time for manslaughter and attempted rape being allowed to move to a woman’s prison even though he committed the offences while a man. The court has also prevented the deportation of foreigners found guilty of serious offences.

The UK lost its first case at the court–which is independent from the EU–in 1975 and had to pay out its first damages in 1980. The report suggested that Britain has lost more than three quarters–331 out of 418–of cases heard in Strasbourg.

Labour’s Human Rights Act of 1998 was supposed to reduce the number of appeals to Europe by applying Strasbourg principles in British courts. The rate of lost cases has worsened however.

The cost of complying with judgments under the convention is £17.3billion to date, the report said. In addition, the growth of a compensation culture fostered by the court has added a further £25billion in costs.

Sian Herbert, of the think tank Open Europe, said: ‘The ECHR and the European Court of Justice [which rules on EU law] now act as a de facto supreme court in the UK in many ways.

‘While we need to remain a country committed to strong protection of basic liberties and rights, these two bodies lack the democratic and judicial legitimacy to fulfil this duty.’

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