Opinion: Theresa May enters a reading contest with the judges

This is Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights:

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Those words are quite clear. There is “no absolute right” to “family life” in that there can be “interference” by a government in that right, if such interference is necessary in the interests of national security, for example.

All very clear. All there in black and white for the judges to apply to specific cases.

Clear, that is, unless you are Theresa May. Our Home Secretary wants Parliament to set out further guidelines for the judiciary, as the Guardian reports:

Theresa May is heading for a renewed showdown with the courts over the rights of foreign prisoners battling to avoid deportation after signalling that she would bring in primary legislation if judges failed to implement new rules.

The home secretary said she would seek the backing of parliament to give priority to deportation above the right to family life enshrined in article 8 of the European convention on human rights.

…What I am going to do is actually set out the rules and say this is what parliament, this is what the public believe is how you balance the public interest against an individual’s interest…

My bolding there highlights an interesting twist in May’s thinking. Fresh in the aftermath of her argument over the calendar with the European Court of Human Rights, Theresa May is going to have a reading contest with the judiciary using, as her guide, the semantical expertise of White Van Man.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • She must have missed clause 2. (Easily done.) You’ve probably saved everyone a lot of time and trouble by pointing that out.

  • Judges already qualify this right all the time- hence far more foreign offenders get deported than get given leave to remain on grounds of the right to family life. May is doing nothing except grandstanding for the tabloids by telling judges what they already know, and telling them to do what they already do.

  • Tony Dawson 11th Jun '12 - 5:42pm

    May has no intention of doing anything at all of any use on this issue (or any other?). She is as transparent as clingfilm (and about as tough) and makes Jeremy Hunt look like a thoroughly good Minister.

  • Richard Dean 11th Jun '12 - 6:35pm

    I wonder if the issue perceived by May is that national governments are not able to freely assess whether the exceptions to 8.2 apply or not – potential deportees always have the right ot appeal to the Erupoean court?

    This ability to appeal is very important to keep. Several governments in Europe might be quite willing to deport people for simply disagreeing with their policies. Perhaps even the present UK government included.

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