Ernest Hemingway said ‘most people never listen’ – and perhaps we could all be a bit better at it. Including the Government, who’ve been sticking their fingers in their ears for ten years over prisoner voting. I know this is an emotive issue but let’s stick to the facts of what the European Court of Human Rights has (and hasn’t) said.
"Judicial authorisation must be obtained in all cases where communications data is ought to determine the source of journalistic information." So advises Sir Paul Kennedy, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, following his inquiry into police use of RIPA to access journalists’ sources.
It’s funny how ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ only ever seems to work one-way. I can’t remember when the Government has ever applied it to themselves – and certainly not during my time as Media Director.
The fundamental human right to vote is one for which many have died, and others continue to strive – much like all of our precious rights and freedoms. It underlies our equality – giving each of us the chance to be part of democratic decision-making, and the opportunity to be heard. It’s too important to take for granted, and well worth claiming.
The past two weeks alone have seen the Ministry of Justice preside over damaging changes to judicial review, the loss by the department of important records concerning the fatal police shootings of three men, and the quiet reversal of the much-criticised prisoner book ban. But the latest devastating critique of the department’s failings comes from a new source – Margaret Hodge and the Public Accounts Committee.
In the Liberty press office we’ve yet to see a week through without the Human Rights Act appearing in the media. We’ve all seen the stories about how it’s the root of almost every social ill from terrorism and crime to the recession and global warming*. This negative reporting can often be overwhelming and it’s easy to forget the positive work that we see the legislation used for every day.
The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill last night cleared its final parliamentary hurdle. The House of Lords – which twice sent the Bill back to the Commons – remained in a defiant mood. But peers avoided constitutional gridlock and accepted the Government’s concessions on secure colleges – a new scheme for a titan prison for children – and judicial review.
Like many of us here in the UK, Paris was the first "foreign" place that I experienced. I’ve visited frequently all my adult life. One of my oldest and dearest friends lives in that beautiful city, and it feels very close indeed. So the Charlie Hebdo murders could not be more jarring, nor the crowds taking to the streets declaring “je suis Charlie”, more poignant. Further, the lessons of how other old democracies have responded to atrocities are as haunting and relevant as ever.
This week we’ve seen the General Election campaign begin in earnest, with the Leadership of the three main Westminster parties publically exchanging blows on the economy and the future of the NHS. All eyes are on pre-election, party political power-play – and you could be forgiven for thinking that Parliament will lie dormant until it is prorogued in March.