There are times I despair of the European Court of Human Rights. Actually, that’s not what I mean. There are times I despair of the arguments used by so called Human Rights lawyers in this country and elsewhere, at great public expense, to persuade the Court of the wisdom of their argument which, to the rest of us, is unattractive at best, and specious at worst.
I refer to a pending application to the ECHR by two English lawyers who will argue that the retention of DNA, or as one described it, the “biometric data” of those arrested but not charged, is in breach of their right to respect for private and family life, under Article 8 of the Convention. To any right minded person, lawyer and layman alike, this is complete rubbish, but there are some in the legal profession who elevate complete rubbish to an art form, and this argument is no exception. And quite how this interferes with their right to respect for private and family life is beyond me, the more so if they take the time and trouble to read Article 8 (2).
I am in favour of a national DNA database for obvious reasons. As to the guarantee under the Convention of my right to respect for private life, I suppose this depends from where and in what manner my DNA sample is taken. That said, I have nothing to fear, unless I go on to commit a crime, in which case, I can hardly complain if I am charged and convicted. Any misuse of my DNA can, and should, be protected by the State and the domestic Courts. I suggest a quango be set up immediately and chaired by me, so that I can draw down generous expenses for my family, my mistress, and of course, the cost of running a second home.
The problem with the ECHR is that they sometimes come out with ridiculous judgments, which they expect to be taken seriously. A further problem is that we, in this country, tend to take them seriously as well, which leads to the theatre of the absurd.
I like to think that the ECHR was conceived to protect the interests of minorities within its jurisdiction. If it wasn’t, then it should have been. One immediately thinks of displaced minorities in the aftermath of the war, who needed protection against a background of political instability. But the problem with the ECHR is that one size fits all, and we’re all swept along in the folly of it all.
We should do what the French and Italians do when they don’t like a judgment. Simply ignore it, and get on with business as usual, using common sense and fairness. That’s the best yardstick of a civilised society, and one that doesn’t need to be determined by the ECHR or any other ‘paralegal’ institution, no matter how well intentioned.
I’m flattered to read that David “Don’t” Pannick, the ascetic scribe for Law Times [11th March] is supporting my position on this subject. Welcome aboard, and better late than never! By the by, has anybody seen hide or hair of Frances Gibb lately? She’s supposed to be The Times legal eagle, but of late, she’s become all but invisible. Has she been given the heave ho? If so, break the news to me gently!