Over the weekend we saw an announcement that Teresa May was contemplating leaving the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which was welcomed by a reasonable amount of people.  However I don’t think personally that these people have actually thought about the ramifications of such a move. 

Now I can understand why some people may be a little annoyed at times with the ECtHR, occasionally it throws up decisions that some people don’t like especially when it comes to things like deportation of terrorists and alike. 

However I think this is a knee-jerk reaction, we get a few results which some people disagree with and this has resulted in calls to leave the court.  However if you looked at the UK courts you would see a lot more decisions each year and over time that you disagreed with which have an impact on much more people. But the ECtHR has done a lot more good than the few odd outlying cases that have caused so much anger towards the court. 

Now let’s just for two minutes consider what the implications of such actions would be.  The UK’s Supreme Court is not like any other in the western world, unlike France, Germany, Spain or the USA to name a few, it has no powers to strike down any laws that parliament makes.  Now the ECtHR can’t do this either but a judgment against any Government is in effect very similar and will result in a change to the law. 

So without that safeguard it makes parliament supreme, it means that the elected officials answer to no one there is no checks and balances to prevent them doing what they want with the law.  A government with a large enough majority could rule without any question and pass any laws it wanted to running roughshod over yours and mine rights. 

Now is that really a situation that you want to be in?

Now let’s say the next prime minister after having left the Council of Europe is not to happy with criticism of his actions or his beliefs.  So to stop this happening he introduces an anti-criticism law which makes it a criminal act to criticise publicly and privately the actions of the government and re-introduces strict blasphemy laws. 

Now none of the UK courts can do anything, they have no power to overturn the laws and can only follow them as they are written down.  So you have just had your free speech heavily restricted and there is nothing you can do about it. 

With Human Rights law you would be able to challenge such a law and the courts could find in your favour which could prevent you getting a criminal record.  But without it, you are wishing away your liberty all because you didn’t like how they ruled on a few cases.   Is it really worth risking your liberty because you dislike half a dozen judgments?

While the ECtHR may not be perfect, as no system with humans in can ever be, is it really worth going the nuclear option because of it? As after all the ECtHR has done a lot of good that benefit you more than it has done to harm you. 

For example; Ireland v United Kingdom says the government can’t lock you up without trial, X.,Y. and Z. v. United Kingdom says that families do not have to be related by blood to be considered families under the law.  Lustig-Prean and Beckett v United Kingdom says discriminating against people in employment due to sexual orientation/race/gender and so on is illegal.  Then there was the Spycatcher case which the UK had tried to suppress the memoirs of an ex-MI5 office, that the court stopped.  Malone v Metropolitan Police Commissioner which involved phone tapping of people by the police. 

The list could go on and on with cases from all 47 member states to show just how beneficial the court has actually been in protecting your rights and liberties as individuals.  Leaving while it may give you some misguided sense of success in the short term will eventually lead to a less free society with less rights and more power in the hands of the government with the ability to take your rights away with even more ease. 

So before you praise this as being a great thing, just please stop and think of the consequences that will come about as a result of it. 

This is always a very interesting area; some people think we should have no restraints on what people can say be that in the press, online or verbally.  Then you have those that think there should be some restraints upon what people can and can’t say because you may offend someone or say something defamatory. 

Now I have thought long and hard about this and tried to work out where I sit on this issue.  There are a few things that I think regulation of free speech is needed but in the most part I think that we should be allowed to say what we like as long as it’s not illegal.

So let me expand on that a little, I don’t think people should be allowed to make racist comments or homophobic comments or things of a similar ilk.  Because they are designed to deliberately offend or upset someone and I would consider them on a par with going up to someone and giving them slap round the face, it’s just not the done thing. 

However if someone wants to insult someone because of what they have done or haven’t done then I don’t have a problem with that, as long as it’s not one of the above then that should be fine.  To call someone a useless buffoon or a stupid idiot should be someone right. 

I don’t think we need to worry about this as if someone says something about you that is untrue and damaging to your caricature we have the deformation laws.  So there is a safety net there to cover you if something is done to you. 

People should have the right to say what they like to who they like, as long as it’s not illegal, but we should not be bending laws to prosecute people for saying what they feel.  We should be allowed to express our opinions as without freedom of speech I couldn’t type this to you now.  People should not be prosecuted for expressing their opinions when they are not racist, or homophobic or inciting hate. 

If we start clamping down on people for what they say and what they believe then we are no better than Russian state under the Soviet Union where people couldn’t say or do what they wanted for fear of being imprisoned.  So we should stand up for our right to speech and not let people oppress us, as if we do where will it stop?