Silly me, I was provoked on Facebook by the comment that Britain was ruled by the ECHR. This led me to making a reply and so I started to look and see how many cases the British Government had lost. I found this at Channel 4, and this at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the 1st is a piece of political reportage, the later a piece of academic research. The C4 article reviews among other cases, the ECHR rulings that the UK may not universally remove voting rights from prisoners and that whole life sentences must have review provisions. Basically I agree with both these rulings.

Prison both punishes the malefactor, and offers opportunities for rehabilitation; it also protects society from re-offenders (for a time). The fact, well opinion, is that in the UK, most legislators and probably most voters are more interested in the first of these effects. But both voting and a review are rights, defined in Article 3 of the First Protocol, the right to vote and Articles 5 the Right to Liberty.

Punishment must fit crime, and we are not yet ready to let computers sentence the guilty. Judges rightly, take into account many circumstances when sentencing including the remorse of the guilty and guidelines from Parliament; they even sometimes take into account that society must be protected and that prisoners may be rehabilitated. Sentences, to be just, must be specific to the case. Blanket provisions such as those in Britain’s prisoner voting rules and whole life sentences breach this need. It’s to our shame that we need to be told this by a court filled with foreigners. It is however a better result and we should thank those judges.

Law & Order

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