Former lord chief justice Lord Judge has called for a change in the Human Rights Act to make it clear that UK courts are not forced to implement rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
‘The Strasbourg Court is not superior to our Supreme Court,’ he said in a lecture to the Constitution Unit at the University College London. 'This is not a pro- or anti-European stance. It is a constitutional issue which has never had to be faced in our jurisdiction.’
Lord Judge said that through the 'living instrument' concept of the European Convention on Human Rights the ECtHR was treating the UK as a federation of states like the US and assuming a similar mantle to that of the US Supreme Court.
He said he was 'astounded’ to read that home secretary Theresa May claimed that some judges chose to ignore parliament and put the law on the side of foreign criminals instead of the public.
Judge also raised the heated issue of prisoner voting rights. 'You can argue for and against prisoner voting rights. You can argue for and against the whole-life tariff. Reasonable people will take different views. My personal belief is that parliamentary sovereignty on these issues should not be exported,’ he said.
Lord Judge is the third senior judicial figure to make a similar point. Last month Lord Justice Laws and Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption also criticised the ECtHR for extending its powers.
Lord Judge retired from office in September.