BILL OF RIGHTS

The word on the street has it that Liz Truss, the newly anointed Secretary of State for Justice and the Lord High Chancellor, has been advised to breathe new life into devising a Bill of Rights.  She told anybody who was listening that it was a manifesto pledge, as if that counted for anything, so it’s back on her agenda.  Question for you all – how many of you voted Conservative at the last General Election because a Bill of Rights was a manifesto pledge?  Yes, I thought so.

Others have flirted with the idea, most recently Oiky Gove, but then, with the whiff of high office in his nostrils, albeit fleetingly, he fell flat on his face and he and the Bill of Rights bit the dust.

The latest thinking along the corridors of power is that a new Bill of Rights should be a mirror image of the European Convention on Human Rights, which was incorporated into British law in 1997 with the Human Rights Act.  The reasoning behind this decision, if ‘reasoning’ is not an over-statement, is that Parliament would not agree to do otherwise.  Call me naive if you will, but doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of a new Bill of Rights?  If we are lumbered with a Convention on Human Rights devised by Germany and France to ensure they never went to war again, then by retaining the Human Rights Act, we are burnishing our European credentials just when we thought we had dumped them for good.  All very confusing, the more so for Liz Truss, who has no legal training, doesn’t know her mens rea from her actus reus, and who will be relying entirely on her civil servants. ‘Yes Minister’ strikes again!

When she appeared recently before the Commons Justice Select Committee, she was asked bluntly by one of its members what the point was of scrapping the Human Rights Act but staying signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights.  Truss replied: “We were members of the convention long before the Human Rights Act.  The Human Rights Act is a fairly recent phenomenon.  What the British Bill of Rights will do is protect our rights but in a better way.”  But surely, Ms Truss, the Human Rights Act enacted the European Convention into English law, the two go hand in hand, you can’t have one without the other, so if you abolish the Human Rights Act, where does that leave the Convention? Her enigmatic reply? “There are big problems with the Human Rights Act that are nothing to do with the convention – problems have only emerged since the Human Rights Act came in.  We are still working on it and I don’t have details about the proposal.”  Quite so.  If for one am none the wiser.

For some time now, judges at the highest levels of the judiciary have argued that the Convention should be acknowledged where it is helpful to do so, and that the decisions of the European Courts should be duly noted, but they should not be binding on English Law.  In this way, our Supreme Court is what it actually claims to be, namely Supreme, so if our Supreme Court does not agree with its European counterparts, it will not follow its judgments, and will say so.

I may not agree with everything the Supreme Court has to say, and in this regard, I remember their pathetic judgement in the banks’ overcharging case, but that said they get it right most of the time, and if they don’t, we can set the Daily Mail on them, and if that doesn’t work, there is always the robust presence of Lord Falkner to put the fear of God into them.

There are many other more pressing matters in her in-tray to occupy Ms. Truss, whose learning curve is almost vertiginous.  Prison reform should be her first priority before there is a serious breakdown of law and order.  Then there’s the equally ludicrous inquiry into historical sexual abuse, but don’t get me started.  That’s worth a blog to itself.

This blog is dedicated to Alexa, the beautiful daughter of our very dear friends, who recently got married.  I wish her and her husband Paul every future happiness.

 

THE OLDEST PROFESSION

There is a lively debate in the Press and the Media about prostitution and what, if anything, should be done about it.

This debate is as old as time itself. The offer of sex in return for payment, whether in cash or in kind, marks out the prostitute as the oldest profession, and every civilisation has exploited sex, be it with men, or women, and in some cases, with children.  For the Creationists amongst you, blame it on Jehovah, as he kicked the whole thing off when he expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and left them to their own devices. In no time at all, they were begetting away, the chosen race was created, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But for us humans, chosen or otherwise, to survive and thrive, the act of conception has to be an intensely pleasurable one, otherwise why bother, and without the bother, bang goes posterity.  It doesn’t matter if the sexual act is for the sole purpose of conception, as the Catholic Church would have it, or the carnal act as the rest of us would have it, with the Mistress if you can afford one, or a femme fatale if you can’t. The sex drive, like the poor, is always with us, and no amount of tongue clicking from the raddled harridans of this world is going to change that particular dynamic.

It is against this background that Amnesty International has dared to tread.  At its recent conference in Dublin, it passed a resolution recommending the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work. This has split the feminist movement asunder, there are no grey areas, only black and white. Cutting to the chase, their aim is laudable: prostitutes should be given the same human rights as the rest of us, they should be protected not vilified, to avoid exploitation, trafficking and violence.

English law under its many legislative guises is a complete shambles when it comes to the regulation and decriminalisation of sex. For example, it is not against the law to be paid for sex, but it is against the law to solicit for sex, so quite how the enterprising woman goes about performing the sexual act without soliciting for it remains a total mystery. You can hump away in a hotel but not in a brothel, that old fashioned and somewhat pejorative term for a gaggle of hookers. It is a distinction without a difference.

There will always be prostitutes, so let’s face facts and do what we can, as a civilised society, to prevent their exploitation.  The most obvious way is to take sex off the streets and into Maisons de Plaisir.  It sounds better than ‘brothel’.

In Paris, where they know a thing or two about amour in all its shapes and sizes, it is all so civilised.   The guest is booked in at the appointed time, having made a reservation beforehand, and he will be required to pay in advance.  No pay, no play!  When making his reservation, he will have chosen his particular fetish and will have been told if it is available or not. He will also indicate how long and how much he wants to spend with his partner.  He will wait for her in a discreet room away from prying eyes such as his wife, and a good bottle of champagne, vintage not domestic, will have been opened.  There is no room for lager louts.  He will be taken to a lavishly furnished suite of rooms where he will undress, shower and put on a clean bathrobe.  He will then choose his condom in both size and flavour, after which he is under starter’s orders and off and running in no time at all.  The Maison will have its own security system, so at the first sign of inappropriate or violent behaviour, the guest is out on his ear.

This tackles and avoids the fears which AI seeks to address.  There is no exploitation, and no violence.  The Maisons de Plaisir will be the subject of regular government inspections to ensure the highest standards are maintained.  If it is accepted that sex is here to stay, and it is, it is pointless and counterproductive to try and protect prostitutes on the street.  I should also add that by adopting my approach, it will almost certainly reduce violence and the reported incidents of rape.

Here’s a thought to liven up the leaden debate between Lefty Corbyn and the Also Rans. If Yvette Cooper, who is trumpeting her sex, has any chance of getting herself elected as the next Leader of the Labour Party, she should adopt my approach into her manifesto, and she’d be a shoo-in.

I’M BACK

I’m sure you missed me!  After a well earned break in the sun, I’m back in the saddle, ready to wield the hammer of the ungodly and hold high the sword of justice!

We left these shivering shores shortly after the General Election, well pleased with the result, and as we were in foreign climes surrounded by jabbering Johnny foreigners, our news of Old Blighty came from a glance at the front page of the Daily Mail, stacked unloved and unsold in the corner of our favourite bistro. With the greatest respect to all who buy this particular tabloid, it really is utter tosh!  At least the Sun has tits to liven up its take on the news, and makes no pretence to be anything other than tits and sport.  The Daily Mail likes to think it’s a serious rag, but it fails miserably.

Speaking of Johnny Foreigner, the only news I seem to have missed, and it interests me professionally, is the forthcoming debate on human rights and which, by all accounts, is beginning to hot up.  All the usual suspects have crawled out from under their ‘special interest’ rocks to preach doom and gloom and the end of civilisation as they see it. Amnesty International has even used its precious resources to take out a two page advertisement accompanied by signatures of their most virulent supporters, none of whom means anything to me.

Those opposing the abolition of the Human Rights Act clearly haven’t thought it through. The inference they draw is that we will abolish all human rights, which is absurd.  I prefer the words of wisdom uttered by Lord Judge in a recent speech to the Hay Festival under the headline: “Don’t let European Courts run our lives.” He goes on to make the obvious point (or obvious to me at least) that we in this country have enjoyed an enviable record of human rights going back to 1215 and the Magna Carta, and there is nothing Johnny Foreigner can teach us in this respect.  We simply do not need a court stuck in Strasbourg with poorly qualified judges, some of whom are political appointees with only a passing knowledge of the law, telling us what we can and cannot do.

If further proof be needed that the Human Rights Act should be replaced by our own Bill of Rights, I learn that the Scottish National Party, led by Nicola Sturgeon who isn’t even an elected Member of Parliament, is hoping to lead the opposition to its abolition, assuming she can get a word in edgeways now that her predecessor the loquacious Alex Salmon is back.

Curious in the extreme that the two most influential members of the Scottish National Party are named after fish!

TELL NO LIES

I hear rumours that the Government is planning to introduce lie detectors, or polygraphs, into the equation when determining if a sex offender is ready to be released into the community.

OMG! What next?

And exactly how will it work?  There are several thousand sex offenders in prison convicted of a variety of offences from simply viewing underage porn on the Internet, all the way up the scale to rapists and murderers.  Presumably each and every one would be subjected to a lie detector test.  So a whole new layer of testers would have to be grafted onto an already overloaded prison system to administer these tests and report their findings back to whomever is remotely interested.

And more to the point, do they work, and are they foolproof? The answer to both questions is a resounding NO.  If you have a spare three weeks with absolutely nothing else to do, Google ‘polygraph’ and you will get 358,000 search results.  A fair proportion of these question the reliability of lie detectors, and rightly so. Interestingly, there are some websites specialising in how to beat a lie detector test, in much the same way as Damien Lewis in ‘Homeland’.

Sex offenders get special treatment in prison.  They are kept apart from other prisoners, and are subjected to a barrage of courses designed to ‘cure’ them of their perverse predilections. So called experts crawl all over them from the day they first enter the prison system to the day they leave, and where prisoners have received a sentence of 4 years or more, they are at the mercy of the Parole Board before they can be released.  These experts range from social workers, psychologists and pyschiatrists, through to landing officers, the governor and Uncle Tom Cobblers.  They are poked and prodded and pushed and shoved throughout their entire incarceration, so that when they present themselves before the Parole Board, they are squeaky clean in mind, body and soul.

But if these rumours are to be believed, this is not enough, so bring on the polygraph. Even if such degrading treatment does not infringe the offender’s human rights, it is bound to be a stressful experience, and stress is the one indicator above all others that the polygraph is designed to record.

Finally, to ensure that the offender has a fair hearing in front of the Parole Board, if he had failed the polygraph test, as his legal adviser I would require a second opinion from an expert, and possibly a retest, adding further to time and expense and, almost inevitably, a postponement of his hearing.  Booking a Parole Board hearing within a reasonable time frame simply doesn’t happen, and in my experience, the time frame is usually 18 months from postponement to rehearing.

Nobody wants a sex offender to be released into the community to commit further sex offences, but no system devised can provide an iron clad guarantee.  The system presently in place is good enough if followed correctly, and adding a lie detector test will achieve nothing.  Worse still, it may lead to an injustice.

Leave well alone!

BE GONE

I suspect I am not alone in applauding Teresa May’s efforts to deport undesirable illegal immigrants, as she has been attempting to do for several months.  A few undesirables stick out like a sore thumb, or in one egregious case, a sore hook.

Her proposal is to ‘clarify’ the provisions of the Human Rights Act for the benefit of the judiciary, and to ‘instruct’ them on thorny issues such as the right to a family life.  This has been pleaded successfully by at least two undesirables, one who had fathered a child whilst awaiting deportation, and the other who had formed a close attachment to a cat.

The problem faced by the Home Secretary is that the judiciary cannot ignore the European Convention on Human Rights, enshrined as it is, and has been since 1998, in our domestic legislation, and likely to remain so until the next General Election in 2015.  High on David Cameron’s wish list in 2015 will be a mandate from vox populi to lead a Conservative administration unshackled by the Liberal Democrats, and wait for the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down.

Far too often in the recent past, we have seen decisions of our domestic courts overturned by the European Court of Justice, and this is going to happen, time and again, unless and until we repeal the Human Rights Act.  Whether or not we replace it with our own Bill of Rights is academic, and a distraction from the main event.

In the meantime, whilst Mrs. May’s ‘instructions’ to the judiciary play well to Middle England, they are nothing more than empty political posturing.  Of greater concern is that they have the potential of undermining the rule of law and casting the judiciary in the role of pantomime villains.

It is tempting to adopt the approach favoured by the French and Italians.  If the face doesn’t fit, put the undesirable on the first plane back home and let the Devil take the hindmost.  It plays well with the crowd, but it does them no good in the eyes of fair minded people. It’s wrong and unjust.

Repeal, reform and clarify by all means, but don’t play political football with the rule of law.  That could lead to a penalty shoot out, and on present form, we’ll go down like a lead balloon.