Monday 20 August 2007

Human Rights

The decision to allow Learco Chindamo to stay in this country upon release is generating a lot of heated comment. While I can see that people, especially Philip Lawrence's family are upset about this, the usual woolly thinking is being bandied about by many of those commenting on the story.
This is the fault of the Human Rights Act
No it isn't, all that act does is short circuit legal proceedings so that cases don't need to be taken to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if they deal with matters where the UK is bound under the European Convention on Human Rights. Scrapping the act won't release us from the provisions of the convention, it will just mean more time and money (mostly from the public purse) for these cases as they all then have to go to Strasbourg. No serious politician wants us to withdraw from the convention itself.

This puts his rights above the rights of the rest of society
Well no, it isn't a case of deport him or deport the rest of society, his whole life and family are here. Can anyone seriously say that sending him to what to all intents and purposes, passport aside, is a foreign country will help his rehabilitation? The issue is nothing to do with human rights or deportation if he is released and he is still a danger to society, it is to do with sentencing and parole policy. We don't deport all ex-prisoners in case they are dangerous, where would we put them? Why, if he is a danger, should the Italian public have to put up with him any more than we should?

After committing such a crime he should forfeit his human rights
There is only one real logical conclusion to that train of thought and that is the death penalty. Some might say that I am engaging in hyperbole here, but think about it, if you become part of an underclass without even the most basic of rights (that is what the convention is designed to give everyone, just the basic rights all human should have) then we are effectively nulling their existence and might as well line them up against the wall. Feel free to argue about whether the rest of this post is objective but here I can't be, the death penalty is a great work of evil and we are much better of for not having it.


Anonymous said...

"There is only one real logical conclusion to [the] train of thought [that committing some crimes should forfeit human rights] and that is the death penalty."

I don't see how that follows. The punishment for crimes is generally the limitation of certain rights for a period of time. Imprisonment removes a person's right to liberty (article 5 of the ECHR), possibly to a private life (article 8 - are letters, phone calls and visits-conducted-through-glass-and-telephones intercepted/recorded in UK prisons?), free assembly (article 11), etc...

That's what punishment is. Even if the intent of a judicial sentence is not punishment but rehabilitation, then we still end up limiting criminals' rights while they're being rehabilitated.

The point is that I don't see how limiting criminals' rights is automatically a slippery slope to the death sentence. We've always been limiting criminals' rights, and yet we repealed the death sentence while continuing to limit them some time ago.

I think we do need to discuss what rights we wish to limit as part of a judicial sentence. And we need to discuss how long those limits should last for, and whether all imposed limits need to last the same amount of time. Once those discussions are done, we need to put proper guidelines in place as to how those limits should be imposed for different types of crime.

While I'm generally not in favour of the death sentence, saying that any particular punishment/limitation of rights can't even be discussed "just because" strikes me as a little dogmatic. There are good reasons not to have the death penalty. Let's use those rational arguments, instead of dogma or fearmongering, to keep the death sentence off the list of punishments we actually employ.

Further, to say that we should also not even discuss other rights limitations, such as exile, from fear of the arguments against the death sentence magically collapsing, does seem to pander to irrationality a little too much for me to take seriously.

That said, adding extra terms after an initial sentencing is, I think, extraordinarily dangerous. If the minimum sentence for murder changes from say 10 years to 20, do we extend the prison term of everyone already in jail for murder? No! (At least, I hope not.) So should it be with other punishments. Once a sentence is imposed, it should be followed. If we also decide that murderers should be exiled following their prison term, again, we should not add that to the sentence of those already in jail. Or, worse, to those already released for that crime. And neither should arbitrary extra punishments be imposed for cases that happen to have caught the public's notice, especially after the initial sentencing. Trial by media is not how things are done, for a number of reasons I hope I don't have to go into.

So, yeah, adding more terms to Learco Chindamo's sentence now - bad. Public rational debate about the kinds of things we can consider adding to future offenders sentences - IMHO - good.

Tony said...

punishment for crimes is generally the limitation of certain rights for a period of time

So we should be allowed to deport him for a period of time?
Shall we throw him out of the country for as many years again as his custodial sentence? I am fairly sure that the Daily Mail readers and the reactionaries in the Home Office want him out permanently.
I will admit that perhaps I could have phrased myself more carefully, but I did mean "permanently" and yes before you ask I also think that life with no possibility of parole is wrong, but not as wrong as judicial murder.

Anonymous said...

"So we should be allowed to deport him for a period of time?"

No. If post-jail deportation was not part of his original sentencing, I see no reason why it should be added now. In just the same way as I would see no reason for extra jail time to suddenly be added now.

But I see no reason why post-jail deportation should not be considered as part of a sentence for future offenders. If there is proper debate about it, if it is thought to be a good idea, if proper guidelines could be put in place as to when it would be suitable, for which crimes, for citizens of which country/countries, etc., etc..., why not?

My main point is that I see no reason why thinking about limiting any rights other than the right to liberty - not implementing limiting those rights, but just thinking about limiting them - will not just leave the door open to thinking about the death sentence, but will leave it the "only one real logical conclusion".

What is it about the right to liberty, that only it is really considerable for limitation as punishment? Why is it safe to limit that right and not others? Why does limiting that right not also lead to the logical conclusion of the death penalty?

Back to another question I think you were asking me - do I think deportation is a good idea?

I haven't a clue.

I've not thought about it in any depth, read no real debate on the subject[0] and not become aware of any studies, cost analyses or public safety considerations. Although my lack of awareness there could well be because I've not looked for such studies, because I've not thought about it. But I'd rather the people in charge of such things did think about, and, if they were to dismiss it, to have sound reasons for doing so. I'd much rather that than have them dismiss the idea because they were afraid that merely thinking about it would lead to the reintroduction of the death sentence.

[0] "Chuck 'im out. We don' want 'is kind 'round 'ere" and "Think of the children!" is not "real debate".

BondWoman said...

Post-jail deportation. Reminds me of the "good ole days" of transportation. P-leas-e.

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