Public Ignorance of the EU and Human Rights

Britain's PM Cameron addresses a news conference after an EU heads of state summit in Brussels

Prime Minister, David Cameron (Image: The Commentator)

The future of Britain’s role in the European Union has made some unsettling headline news over the past few months, with Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge of an in/out referendum on EU membership – but, only if the Conservative Party wins the 2015 General Election.

The speech came following a ComRes survey that revealed the anti-EU, UK Independence Party (Ukip) achieved its highest-ever rating at the expense of the Conservative Party. This helped Labour to extend its lead, placing Labour at 41 per cent, and the Tories at 31 per cent. If repeated at a general election, such figures would give Labour an overall majority of 110, with the Tories losing 99 seats, and the 36 out of 57 Lib Dem MPs defeated.

Interestingly, in the wake of the Conservative Party’s drubbing in the Eastleigh by-election, after being out-beaten by the UK Independence party, Senior Tory cabinet ministers have this week raised the prospect of pulling Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights – again mentioning, only if the party obtains an overall majority in the 2015 General Election. Meanwhile, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says that the Conservatives will repeal the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the ECHR in domestic law. Theresa May, the home secretary, has reportedly been working on the plans for the Tories’ next manifesto.

The recent news is all the more depressing when one considers that the Opinium/Observer survey found that 56% of Britons would probably, or definitely, vote for the UK to leave the EU if they were offered the choice in a referendum.

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Anti-EU protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London (Image reproduced from The Guardian)

It is, therefore, clear that such calls by the Tories are merely gesture politics, in an attempt to regain popularity. It is also clear that because the Tories have lost a by-election, they now feel the need to play to the audience. It does not make any sense for Britain to leave the EU, or for the Human Rights Act to be repealed, nor for the UK withdraw from Strasbourg. However, if a referendum really is held, it places Britain in a very dangerous position, given the position that so many Britons feel such distain towards the EU. Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, is on a similar wavelength of thought to myself. Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Miliband stated:

“I think it is incredibly dangerous what David Cameron is doing. He is essentially sleepwalking us towards the exit door from the EU.”

“The last thing we should do is start to say for some date five, six, seven years hence, let’s decide now to have an in/out referendum. As Michael Heseltine said very well yesterday, that means you are having a referendum on a negotiation that has not yet begun, with a timescale that is uncertain and an outcome that is unknown. That is an incredible gamble. We know why this is happening. He is worried about the threat from Ukip and he is worried about what is happening in his own party. It is the wrong thing to do.”

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Ed Miliband, Leader of The Labour Party (Image: The Telegraph)

There is perhaps a strong possibility that the EU debate is merely a sideshow, distracting from the real problems of the Eurozone, the UK economy and manufacturing – especially when there are fears of the UK facing a triple dip recession, not to mention losing its prestigious AAA rating.

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(Image: mydavidcameron.com)

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“Trust in me…” (Image: Top News)

Another depressing issue, is the fact so many British people seem to confuse the European Union with the European Convention of Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act with the European Convention. It is now over twelve years since the Act took effect, but uninformed and misleading statements are still made about the EU, and human rights law, by those who should know better, and circulated by those who could not care less.

When debating topics based on the European Union, some of the comments I receive on Twitter never fail to amaze me with regards general level of misunderstanding and ignorance as to what the functions of the EU actually are.

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Contrary to what the lady in the above tweet (and many others) seem to believe, leaving the European Union will not stop the courts preventing the removal of foreign criminals, and neither will it do anything to improve our national security, which I will explain.

In one sense, one cannot blame peoples’ ignorance when they believe they are “informed”, after reading absurdly incorrect news articles that are all too regularly sensationalised in a number of tabloid newspapers. A few weeks ago, I came across this shining example of Eurosceptical ignorance on Twitter, when someone posted a link to this article published in ‘The Sun’: Youngsters at risk after EU ruling. According to yet another scare-mongering tale, The Sun claims that theEU could let fiends like him prey on your children.”

To set the record straight, the story concocted in the mentioned Sun article, came from a judgement that was actually given by the Court of Appeal – an English and Welsh court, based in the Royal Courts of Justice in London. It is not an EU court, and the EU had absolutely nothing to do with this particular judgment which was regarding Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks and the incorporated rights of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgement given by the Court of Appeal can be found here, and anyone who takes the time to read it will observe how the judgement is in no way related to the story in The Sun.

The Mail on Sunday has also provided excellent evidence of misinformation with their story purporting, “New outrage as Taliban suspect told he can stay”, which begins “In a new human rights case to cause anger”. The case is not even about a human rights at all, but is actually about the EU Refugee Qualification Directive. The case report can be found here. Please feel free to read it and see if it bares any resemblance to the story. Incidentally, if we were to expunge all traces of the European Convention on Human Rights from our law, that Directive would still apply.

However, for those without a legal or political background, stories such as that published in The Sun and the Mail on Sunday, can seriously misinform, and unnecessarily scare a significant number of people. It is unfortunate that the tabloids appear to get rather confused when ranting about their hatred of the Human Rights Act and their hatred of the EU. After all, it can all get quite complicated, and with such feelings of outrage, who cares about the difference between the European Union, Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Justice, the Euro… They’re all the same – right?

Wrong.

For those who are confused between the European Convention of Human Rights, such as the person in the above Tweet appeared to be, the EU has nothing to do with the European Convention of Human Rights, just as the EU and ECHR have nothing to do with the Court of Appeal. The EU is not a party to the Convention, and has no role in the administration of the court of human rights.

The European Convention of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, is administered by the Council of Europe (‘CoE’), an organisation set up in 1949 by the Treaty of London, for which the UK was one of the first ten states to sign up. Ironically, it was Winston Churchill – proudly named the greatest Briton by The Sun, and held in such high regard by the British Nation – who called for a ‘Council of Europe’ six years earlier in 1943.

Although signing up to the European Convention on Human Rights is a condition of EU membership, they are distinct institutions. The EU, by contrast, is an economic and political union of 27 states, and its development was separate from the CoE.

Despite so much British outrage regarding the subject of the European Convention on Human Rights in its most recent years, the European Convention on Human Rights was actually formed by the CoE all the way back in 1950, and entered into force in 1953. It is, in fact, an international treaty that is aimed at protecting human rights. Ironically, it was drafted in the most part by David Maxwell Fyfe, a British Conservative MP, lawyer, and prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. Furthermore, it was based on many of the UK’s common law rights. 47 states are now party to the Convention, and have all agreed to abide by rulings of the Strasbourg court. In a further twist of irony, consider that it was former Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, who signed the Maastrict Treaty in 1992, thus forming the European Union; David Maxwell Fyfe, a Conservative MP who oversaw most of the drafting of the ECHR; and it was Winston Churchill – yet another Conservative, who called for a Council of Europe. Yet, it is also the modern day Conservatives who now claim to be so skeptical of Britain’s role in the European Union and European Court of Human Rights.

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David Cameron in a Winston Churchill style meme (reproduced from The Sun)

However, it was the Labour enacted Human Rights Act, 1998, which brought much of the European Convention on Human Rights (which was based on many UK common law rights – as mentioned above) into domestic British law. This ensures that all UK courts are able to apply human rights law directly, which means that the vast majority of human rights judgments affecting British law, are actually produced by local UK judges. Thus, the Human Rights Act is an instrument which should be commended by those who want the UK courts to decide things instead of Strasbourg. The Act’s existence has made it rare for applicants to require a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights, and the case law developed by UK judges in UK courts since 2000 means that Strasbourg jurisprudence has become less relevant ever since. The Human Rights Acts also provides that UK judges cannot disapply primary legislation on human rights grounds, and so the supremacy of parliament is maintained – which goes against the tabloid propaganda that the UK has given away its legislative powers to Europe.

Since 2000, human rights have become part of the mainstream in litigation. I do find it incredibly ironic that Newspapers have sought to rely on Article 10 – Right to free expression under the ECHR (para 33 and 36 here), yet are so quick to loathe the very institution that gives them to freedom to publish such sensationalised misinformation.

From the amount of coverage and political argument the court generates, many may be mislead into believing that it rules against the UK hundreds of times per year. However, the statistics may surprise you: Only around ten judgements a year come from Strasbourg. In 2012 there were 3,308 applications made by individuals to the Court involving the UK, with only 21 were declared “admissible” by the Court. The 21 UK cases amounted around 2% of the total substantively considered by the Court (1,093), with the Court finding an actual violation in only ten UK cases. A similar number of applications were brought before the Court in 2011, suggesting that around 99% of applications from the UK are being dismissed in the very early stages.

Context is everything!

This is also one reason why leaving Strasbourg will not stop the courts preventing the removal of foreign criminals. As you can see from this full list on page 16 of this Ministry of Justice document, only a small number include cases on foreign criminals, extradition, or immigration.

In fact, the vast majority of such cases are decided by UK domestic courts, and none of the cases mentioned in previous Mail on Sunday’s headlines about courts stopping removals, is a European Court of Human Rights case. All relate to decisions by UK courts, as the Human Rights Act 1998 gave local UK courts the power to enforce most of the rights outlined by the European Convention on Human Rights. This prevents our human rights law being forged exclusively in Strasbourg, and UK judges are largely deciding UK human rights issues. Therefore, even if the UK withdrew from Strasbourg, the UK courts would still continue to apply human rights law, taking account the European Convention of Human Rights, as they are obliged to do by section 2 of the Human Rights Act.

Should the Conservatives also repeal the Human Rights Act, which has been suggested on many occasions, it would be replaced by a of Bill of Rights, which is likely to be similar to the ECHR – with a few British tweaks. Although the provisions of the European Convention are already enshrined in British law through the Human Rights Act, under Theresa May’s proposals, the final right of appeal would be to the British Supreme Court – not Strasbourg. That would mean a British citizen would no longer have the right to appeal a Supreme Court decision. Is that what Britons really want?

It must also be mentioned that the European Convention on Human Rights is just one of a number of international conventions that prevent the UK in deporting people back to their home countries, where they may face a real risk of torture, or from committing acts that may disproportionately affect children, such as ritual practices that harm children, paedophilia, and murder. Withdrawing from the European Convention would do little or nothing to change the UK’s human rights obligations – and nor would we want it to. I doubt the readers of The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, and The Sun, et al., would genuinely wish to withdraw from conventions that outlaw torture or protect children, if they were better informed.

If the UK were to leave the Strasbourg court, and the Supreme Court had the final say on human rights, British judges have occasionally suggested that a court might decide to disapply or invalidate a statute in exceptional circumstances. The 25-year old Court of Appeal judgment, (1) Nadarajah Vilvarajah, (2) Vaithialingham Skandarajah v Secretary of State For the Home Department 1990 which preceded the Human Rights Act, reveals that judges are not aways so obedient to the Government when it comes to interpreting basic rights – As Conor Gearty observes, ‘some judges might even be emboldened to strike down acts of parliament for breach of human rights, something that the current legislation specifically prohibits and so would be easier with the Human Rights Act off the scene.’ Likewise, I would imagine this would also be particularly so, if judges were aware that the safety net of an individual’s right to petition to the Strasbourg court, had been removed. The case of Nadarajah Vilvarajah and Vaithialingham Skandarajahin also reveals that Home Secretaries have felt unduly constrained by international agreements long before the Human Rights Act. Furthermore, Lord Hope stated in R (Jackson) v Attorney General, that the principle of parliamentary sovereignty ‘is no longer, if it ever was, absolute … It is no longer right to say that its freedom to legislate admits of no qualification whatever.’ Judges are supplied with a range of remedial powers that can address legislative actions that result in a violatation of rights, without the need to turn to the common law. Political posturing over immigration and asylum law long predated the Human Rights Act, and the law was as good then as it is now.

Nevertheless, reliance upon the principals of a judge does not mean we should let Home Secretaries, such as Theresa May and her ridiculous outbursts concerning the “evils” of human rights, dictate which agreement we remain party to.

Home Secretary Theresa May Recalled To Parliament To Answer Questions About The Deportation Of Abu Qatada

Home Secretary, Theresa May

The case of Ullah has also revealed that UK courts do “no more” than Strasbourg “but certainly no less“. Judges take the view that if there is a principle arising from a consistent line of cases in the Strasbourg court that does not conflict with British law, they will follow it. Therefore, the ECHR is not as ridiculous as the tabloids, and even some politicians, would have us believe. It also completely discredits the ridiculous anti-European propaganda on this website.

Further to the principle laid out by Ullah dictum, in the more recent Supreme Court judgment, Rabone v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust [2012], Lord Brown examined the extent of the UK courts’ duty to follow decisions from the Strasbourg court, and their ability to go beyond such decisions. It was decided that UK courts need not always adhere to decisions of the Strasbourg court. Where a UK court is reluctant to agree with a decision by the Strasbourg court, it is permissible to reach a different conclusion from that reached at Strasbourg, but must ensure that Convention rights are not of a lower standard than those at Strasbourg. It has also been the case that the House of Lords has not followed clear decisions of the Strasbourg court when a decision can be distinguished without it, as was the case in Animal Defenders International v Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport, [2006]. It is also the case that the UK courts need not follow a decision of the Strasbourg court when not taken by the Grand Chamber, as decided by the Supreme Court decision of R v Horncastle [2009]. (However, the UK court must follow an authoritative decision of the Grand Chamber.)Arguably, Lord Brown provides the courts with greater powers than those already recognised by the Supreme Court. In Horncastle, the Supreme Court decided not to follow a decision of the fourth section of the Strasbourg court which was on appeal to the Grand Chamber; in part, due to the concern that the decision had failed to take sufficient account of English common law. Yet, a court may decide that a Convention right applies beyond the current range of decisions found in the Strasbourg court, and UK courts may also go beyond the definition of Convention rights found in decisions of the Strasbourg court, as was the case in In Re G (Adoption: unmarried couple). Where there is no consistent case law from Strasbourg, it is still open to the UK courts to develop the common law to protect human rights – note that this is a development of the common law and not a definition of Convention rights.

The case of Ambrose v Harris (Procurator Fiscal, Oban)(Scotland) [2011] confirmed previous practices of the House of Lords, and Lord Kerr noted that Ambrose, appears to provide a stronger criticism of the Ullah dictum. The case recognised that domestic courts should have the power to define Convention rights when there was no clear decision from Strasbourg, thus suggesting not only that it should be a power of the court, but a duty. Whilst, interestingly, the case of Re P [2007], revealed that the October 2000 Law Commission report “Damages Under The Human Rights Act 1998”, proved to be more helpful in the court’s decision reasoning, than any particular determination laid out in law from Strasbourg. (Thank you to the anonymous person on Reddit, who so kindly drew my attention to the two latter cases mentioned.)

Therefore, withdrawing from the ECHR and abolishing the Human Rights Act, would appear to make little difference. Nevertheless, leaving Strasbourg could still, arguably, leave individuals in the UK in a weaker position against the state, if their rights are breached. The UK, along with Belarus – a country with questionable human rights – would be the only two European countries to not be a part of the ECHR.

Devolution also casts a long shadow over this debate. The fact is that the constitutional landscape of the UK has altered radically since the Conservatives last won a general election in 1992. As the Bill of Rights Commission discovered, the London Parliament’s options may be limited whilst issues surrounding Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales remain unresolved. Devolution makes the repeal of the Human Rights Act far less straightforward. A major issue is that both the Scottish and Northern Irish devolution settlements were intended to have the ECHR woven into their constitutional fabric from the outset. Thus, withdrawal from the ECHR could prove problematic to say the least.

The key question is whether withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights will solve the problems that the Conservative party – particularly the tabloids – have identified. The answer is ‘no’. However, given the unjustified British fear of European influence, an obsession with the expulsion of foreigners, and the rise of UKIP, the electorate are more than likely to disregard common sense.

Thus, I will ask the people of Britain this question: With regards Convention rights, which of our rights do we really wish to discard? The late Lord Bingham once stated:

“The rights protected by the Convention and the Act deserve to be protected because they are, as I would suggest, the basic and fundamental rights which everyone in this country ought to enjoy simply by virtue of their existence as a human being.

Let me briefly remind you of the protected rights, some of which I have already mentioned.

The right to life.

The right not to be tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The right not to be enslaved.

The right to liberty and security of the person.

The right to a fair trial.

The right not to be retrospectively penalised.

The right to respect for private and family life.

Freedom of thought,conscience and religion. Freedom of expression.

Freedom of assembly and association.

The right to marry.

The right not to be discriminated against in the enjoyment of those rights.

The right not to have our property taken away except in the public interest and with compensation.

The right of fair access to the country’s educational system.

The right to free elections.

Which of these rights, I ask, would we wish to discard? Are any of them trivial, superfluous, unnecessary? Are any them un-British?

There may be those who would like to live in a country where these rights are not protected, but I am not of their number.

Human rights are not, however, protected for the likes of people like me – or most of you. They are protected for the benefit above all of society’s outcasts, those who need legal protection because they have no other voice – the prisoners, the mentally ill, the gipsies, the homosexuals, the immigrants, the asylum-seekers, those who are at any time the subject of public obloquy.”

I think Lord Bingham hits the nail most pertinently on the head.

As for leaving the European Union, that is a different matter altogether.

There is much uncertainty on that matter, and the truth is that there really are more questions than answers at this stage, and many of the arguments for/against are purely speculative at the moment. If the UK were to withdraw from the EU, what would happen to foreign direct investment? How much of the regulatory burden currently imposed would we maintain if free to reverse it? How would the gross contributions be used if made available to the UK government? Would there be a mutually beneficial free trade agreement, or would the political fall-out from an exit lead to irrational protectionism? As Iain Begg at the London School of Economics stated to Channel 4: “If Mr Cameron said to the EU: ‘I’m taking my ball home, I’m not playing with you any more’, there would be some kind of revenge. That is what we would do if it were the other way round.”

What is desperately needed before any conclusions can be drawn, is a full blown cost-benefit analysis conducted by the UK government, using relevant counterfactual scenarios. It is somewhat surprising that the UK government has never commissioned a cost-benefit analysis of the UK’s continued membership. Might this be yet another indication that the Government is not really intending to withdraw from the European Union, but is merely playing the electorate?

Memo to the editors and publishers of The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, Telegraph: Inform your readers; do not confuse them further.

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The Daily Mail comes up with yet another story of David Cameron relying on the ignorance of the population to give the appearance of taking a tough line on ‘Europe’.

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13 thoughts on “Public Ignorance of the EU and Human Rights

  1. Precisely right. It is amazing how ignorant most voters are. There is something to be said for passing a test before being given the right to vote… or the right to have children come to that as those that do badly at one often do badly at both.

    It is incredible how much misrepresentation there is in the press about Europe and how no-one seems to be in a position to inform people who disingenuous it all is.

    Much of the EU law on human rights and indeed UN law too is taken almost directly from our own British laws. We were seen as have the strongest democracy and most mature laws and legal frameworks which is why the UN took much of our regulations and possibly why today so many commercial and business legal cases are being held here when both sides are none British and usually none European.

    Now that much of Europe if not the world has all but caught up with is legally speaking, it doesn’t mean that we should jettison commitments just because it is inconvenient to us as a nominal democracy.

    Ever since the Blair years with increased CCTV, increase in detention with out jury, possibilities of trial without jury and now the terrible inconvenience of human rights, this country and others has been on a retrograde path.

    Just because a few may take advantage of us, does not mean our hard won rights should be walked over. By all means stop one eyed, bomb making extremists and their huge families from entering the country but once they are in, tough. It is too late. They were let into the country for good or bad. Personally I would execute him if he has been demonstrably shown to have acted in any way that led to the death of any individual but I know this is against European law too. I don’t say because of who he is, I’d have that for everyone who committed murder, terrorism etc.That’s tough for me and good for him. Those same laws however safeguard me in every other way except for things like police kettling when I’d probably get as much justice here as I would in Jordan.

    As for the government, you’re entirely right. The EU referendum is just a sop. If they were serious then hold this summer. No need to drag it out past another election…. again. Again the Tories are being disingenuous…. do this and this and maybe that and if it is windy then we’ll think about a referendum that errr we probably would be split over anyway.

    BTW, really good post Katie. As usual :-)

    • Hi Stephen!

      Thanks so much for your comment. To address some of your points:

      >”There is something to be said for passing a test before being given the right to vote…”

      You know something? As undemocratic as it may sound, I sometimes think the same thing. On the one hand, I understand the annoyance of the British people that we have no say in European matters. After all, the British people have not consented democratically through referenda to allow politicians from other countries decide upon laws that the British people (and people in all other EU states) must subsequently obey. The last 5 Treaties have not been subject to any referendum. In fact, the last referendum was in 1975 and was only held after Britain had been taken in to the ‘Common Market’ by Edward Heath in 1972, and that too was without any public consultation.
      On the other hand, given the extent of the people’s misunderstanding and lack of awareness regarding the role of all the different EU institutions, I almost think that people should not always have the right to vote. If a person has no understanding of what they are really voting for, it should make their opinion invalid. Furthermore, given the amount of racism and patriotism in Britain, combined with such little understanding for what the EU does and ECHR actually is, I’m almost inclined to say people should not have the right to vote, as so many seem to apply “gut feeling”, before applying hard nosed economic and legal logic.

      Incidentally, if we were to have a referendum on membership, as was the case in 1975, the losing side (AKA the Europhobes) will merely want another one. Note that it is only the Europhobes who have been calling for another referendum consistently ever since. Now it so happens that their voices have just been getting louder in the last 10 years or so (probably because they suddenly woke up to it when an influx of Polish people arrived, and the racists suddenly kicked off!) So, if we have a referendum, how long will it be before the next losing side will demand yet *another* referendum? The danger is that we might end up with perpetual referendum campaigns, like California.

      A problem with the idea of a referenda system is that the British constitutional position is such that no one parliament can bind another. Thus after a general election, the constitutional position of referenda can be revised all over again! It would require reforming the entire British political system just to be able to make a referendum system in anyway serious. Otherwise, it will just look like one big political farce. On the other hand there are many intelligent people within the UK population who *should* be heard with regards having a say on our position in Europe. Yet, a regular referendum system will not really work well, given that successive governments can change the policy. Sometimes we really do need to put our faith in the elected British Government to do the right thing, which is why it is so crucial that we vote for the right Government and scrutinise what their manifestos are really saying, and if it makes any sense before deciding whom to vote for. Putting our faith in the government is the whole purpose of us having the long established representative democracy that the British constitution has long preserved as its sovereign power. The principle of sovereignty is so old and established, it even predates Parliament. The sovereign power lies not with the people, but with the Crown in Parliament, as personified by the government of the day. Hence, this is why there was no constitutional requirement for parliament to vote before we went to war with Iraq – but look how many people in the UK condemned the Blair government for doing so. The right to make new statutes, treaties, and declarations of war, all remain a part of the royal prerogative, which today is now exercised on the Crown’s behalf by the Prime Minister.

      >”There is something to be said for passing a test before being given… or the right to have children..”

      I whole heartedly agree!

      >”It is incredible how much misrepresentation there is in the press about Europe and how no-one seems to be in a position to inform people who disingenuous it all is.”

      People do try to inform people who are disingenuous. The problem is, they refuse to listen, or just do not seem to want to know the truth. They’ve read it, therefore they believe it. Sadly, people prefer to read shock stories, before wishing to inform themselves about the truth.

      > “Ever since the Blair years with increased CCTV, increase in detention with out jury, possibilities of trial without jury and now the terrible inconvenience of human rights, this country and others has been on a retrograde path.”

      A trial without jury is an infringement of Article 6 of the Convention, and CCTV is potentially an infringement of Article 8. And I do not believe Human Rights are an “inconvenience” at all. However, to contradict myself somewhat, I personally have no problem with CCTV. Nothing to hide; nothing to fear.

      > “Personally I would execute him if he has been demonstrably shown to have acted in any way that led to the death of any individual but I know this is against European law too. I don’t say because of who he is, I’d have that for everyone who committed murder, terrorism etc.”

      I completely disagree. Many people have been wrongly accused and wrongly detained. Execution is *not* acceptable. Leave murderers to rot in jail for life instead, and make a life sentence mean a life sentence – as opposed to “life” meaning 17 years. I do not believe in death penalties whatsoever. Two wrongs do not make a right – especially in the case of an innocent man who has been wrongly accused. It happens more often than you realise.

  2. Hi Katie, you’re very welcome. I really enjoyed your post and it made a lot more sense than most of the inane ramblings in the media.

  3. adi says:

    Nice to see you writing again. Great post.

    Memo to the editors and publishers of The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, Telegraph: Inform your readers; do not confuse them further.

    If they actually did that, then they’d go out of business because their readers don’t want to be informed. They want to be told they’re special and awesome and have it dressed in some random context that makes it look like the truth. Pretty much EVERY single piece junk the mainstream media spews can be reduced to that.

    • Hi Adi,

      Nice to hear from you, stinker! I am off my feet at the moment (or at least trying to be!), so I may as well take the time to blog a little, whilst I have the extra time.

      “If they actually did that, then they’d go out of business because their readers don’t want to be informed.”

      Sadly, that is most probably true. The sort of people who read the tabloids are usually of below average intelligence. The format of the papers are even so simplistic, that it encourages the less intelligent to read them, over a broadsheet such as The Guardian. There was recently an algorithm study conducted on ease of newspaper readability, and The Sun (unsurprisingly) came out as being the easiest to read.
      http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-11/26/analysis-of-news-articles
      This quote from the article speaks volumes: “The fact that articles about politics are the least readable might also explain widespread public disengagement.”

      “They want to be told they’re special and awesome and have it dressed in some random context that makes it look like the truth. ”

      That reminds me of an upcoming article I am in the process of writing on racism, where I raise a similar point. Watch this space!

      There is a lot of truth in the fact that people want to be told they are special, and there is no coincidence that studies have correlated a link between intelligence and racism/prejudice/right-wing political views, and the tabloids’ vehemently racist perspective and articles that prejudice against ethnicity, and vulnerable people such as the mentally ill or retarded. Just take this guy for example:
      http://www.sundaysport.com/?p=8506
      As strange as he may seem to the likes of ordinary people, the tabloids demonise him and portray him as some kind of evil fiend, when it is blatantly obvious that he is merely mentally retarded in some way, and is probably completely unaware of how or why his behaviour may be portrayed as bizarre. Sniffing a seat hardly makes the man a threat to society, for goodness sake!

      Tabloids can be damaging to society in the way they demonise so many groups of people, often portraying the world as being far more horrific than it actually is. If anything, such “journalism” often encourages the world to be more unpleasant, by the way such news articles so often incorrectly misinform people in such a way that it leads so many to believe that certain innocent groups of people are preying upon others, or are a burden on society.

      This hilarious stand-up about the Daily Mail hits the nail on the head:

  4. adi says:

    Good stuff. It gets even worse than just bad writing though. The mail online has an incredible amount of readers world wide. It accomplishes this through reusing articles or parts of them in other articles. That way they can spew enormous amounts of content per day and sell it as if it were new.
    On the upside of things, they’re not making enough money to break even apparently.

    In general there are a lot of bad things going on in blogging because people are doing anything to get lots of views.

    • Yes, the Fail Online has a prolific online readership worldwide. And, yes, they do reuse articles, as also noted by Martin Robbins in the video, with the “1 in 3 Muslims” study he quoted. Of course, it turned out to be completely inaccurate. Most of their statistics are complete tosh, which is why if someone presents a Fail article as “evidence” to support their argument, I will instantly search for another source before I will consider any story or statistics presented. I never trust the Fail by itself.

      Worryingly, a lot of people outside of the UK have no idea about the British tabloid culture, and are fooled into believing the Daily Fail is a reliable paper, as its articles are often written in a rather formal looking manner, despite the complete and utter nonsense it is purporting. It even fools a lot of intelligent people, who are not familiar with its reputation. Incidentally, Justicar posted a link to it on Twitter to “prove” his point about gun crime. The article was some rubbish about the UK being more dangerous than South Africa (if I remember correctly), which as I pointed out to him, was total tosh. The fact the article quoted no source for its data, and the fact that no similar stats could be found anywhere else, were immediately suspicious. According to the official National Office of Statistics there were 5,911 gun related offences (which could mean just illegally owning or carrying a gun), out of a UK population of approx 63million. So, the instance of UK gun offences comes to about 0.0009%, and that does not mean that all were related to a shooting. Yes, gun crime, and other violent crimes are real problems in Britain. However, it must be noted that Britain currently has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world, despite all the media hype! The only way to find out the real story, is to look up the official stats oneself. As to how reliable they are is another question, as there is always the possibility of Home Office officials tweaking the figures to make the government look more successful.

      “In general there are a lot of bad things going on in blogging because people are doing anything to get lots of views.”

      Yes, so I have discovered, including defaming others and irreparably ruining their reputations, not to mention alarming a significant number of people unnecessarily with ridiculously false statistics.

    • Case in check: https://mobile.twitter.com/jeh704/status/281591042619367424

      More realistic figures (homicide rates in this instance): http://www.quandl.com/society/oecd-murder-rates

      Justicar came up with a witty answer, at least!

  5. adi says:

    Justicar’s got just the right amount of snark to keep him from being perceived as a goody two-shoes. Did you see the video where he can’t control his laughter? It’s about some cretin demanding hugs or something and he just can’t get through reading the comment without cracking up.

    Yes, so I have discovered, including defaming others and irreparably ruining their reputations

    What have they targeted you? What for and what have they done? It’s crazy how messed up things get.

    • Nothing wrong with a “goody two-shoes”. I prefer that sort (provided they are genuine, clearly spoken, and not in any way “smarmy”, slimy, fake, etc.) to people who eff and blind/rant and rave furiously, or those who are just plain silly. I do think Justicar has just the right balance, incidentally. And yes, I have seen the video you mentioned.

      “What have they targeted you? What for and what have they done?”

      Where did you get that idea from? Just goes to show how easy one can be misunderstood in online communications. Might explain why I seem to anger so many on Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook, over the most insignificant of comments! – Although, I’ve not had any “unfriendings” for some time now, so I must be calming down in my old age. ;)

      I’ve not been a newspaper target as far as I know, and furthermore, what would they gain from trying to defame me? It is not as though I am some big name celebrity, who everyone would want to read about, or some person who committed a scandalous crime… Unless you’re talking about that Daily Fail article that reported about the water filled condom bombs I carry in my rucksack everyday, and all the random people I’ve savagely tickled with a feather duster whilst in an elevator.

      The worrying thing is that such a scenario, whereby a person is wrongly accused of a crime that is subsequently sensationalised by the tabloids, is not even so far removed in today’s society.

  6. […] have also witnessed escalating Eurosceptism (discussed in my previous blog post); the rise of the UK Independence Party, and increasing British Nationalism has seen the British […]

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