Alarm at the news that Geoffrey Cox QC to lead the commission updating human rights law
Geoffrey Cox QC, until today the Attorney General when he was asked to resign by the prime minister, may lead the commission which will ‘update’ human rights laws and reforming the judiciary. This will be done by the Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission of which little is known at present. A written answer on 7 January 2020 said:
As set out in the Queen’s Speech, the Commission will examine the broader aspects of the constitution in depth and develop proposals to restore trust in our institutions and in how our democracy operates. We are carefully considering the composition and focus of the Commission.
I am unable to offer further detail at the moment, as the precise scope of the Commission’s remit and programme has not yet been decided. Further announcements will be made in due course and I would be happy to provide further information at that time. Earl Howe, Cabinet Office, 7 January 2020
The Human Rights Act has been a target for abolition for quite some time although it did not appear in the last Conservative manifesto in 2019. David Cameron, when prime minister, referred to the ‘complete mess’ of human rights legislation. Part of the problem is a belief that British courts and the British system is in some way superior to the European Court and there is anger when rulings went against us. This despite the many miscarriages of justice which have taken place here. Indeed, and slightly ironically, the Police and Criminal Evidence act PACE was introduced to try and tackle the various problems that existed. Interrogations that went on for hours, the absence of a lawyer to represent a suspect, and withholding evidence favourable to their case were typical of miscarriage of justice cases. PACE altered that and as far as the European Court is concerned, the UK is now one of the ‘good guys’.
It has also been caught up in the general anti-Europe rhetoric which was part of the Brexit debate.
Mr Cox is not a reassuring appointment if it is confirmed. He is keen for a panel of MPs and Lords interview Supreme Court judges before appointment. This strikes at the heart of our system where politicians and the judiciary are separate. One can only imagine the results of a group of politicians appointing or approving judges who are ‘one of us’ or who are described as ‘sound’.
Cox has generally voted against equality and human rights issues in parliament according to TheyWorkforYou Website. He voted against largely retaining the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2018 and in favour of repealing the HRA in 2016.
We will have to wait to see who is to sit on this Commission, what its terms of reference are and who it invites to give evidence before we can come to a judgement on its likely effects. But past history, statements by leading politicians, manifesto promises and a ceaseless tide of stories anti the act is likely to play out in some way and in all probability, lead to a lessening of rights. If minor modifications were all that was needed, why set up a Commission?
The Salisbury group will – with others – be keeping an eye on these changes.
Our local MP, Mr John Glen is also recorded by TheyWorkforYou as having generally voted against laws to promote equality and human rights.
If you would like to join the local group you would be most welcome. The best thing is to keep an eye on this site or Facebook or Twitter and come along to an event which we are running.