The Conservative party today pledged to break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights.
The party’s manifesto says a Conservative government would make the UK Supreme Court the ‘ultimate arbiter’ of human rights in this country.
The document renews a pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce a British bill of rights.
The manifesto said the bill will ‘remain faithful’ to the basic principles of human rights included in the European Convention on Human Rights.
‘It will protect basic rights, like the right to a fair trial, and the right to life, which is an essential part of a modern democratic society,’ says the document.
‘But it will reverse the ”mission creep” that has meant human rights law being used for more and more purposes, and often with little regard for the rights of wider society.’
The manifesto pledges to continue with the £375m modernisation of the courts to reduce delays in the justice system. There is also a pledge to ‘continue to review our legal aid systems’ to continue to provide access to justice in an efficient way.
In criminal law, the party says it will ‘speed up justice’ by extending the use of police-led prosecutions. The scope of the Unduly Lenient Scheme will be extended so a wider range of sentences can be challenged.
All publicly funded advocates will also be given specialist victims’ training before becoming involved in serious sexual offences cases.
In civil liberties, new communications data legislation will ‘strengthen’ the ability of the authorities to disrupt terrorist plots, criminal networks and child-grooming gangs.
‘We will maintain the ability of the authorities to intercept the content of suspects’ communications, while continuing to strengthen oversight of the use of these powers,’ it adds.
So-called ‘Extremism Disruption Orders’ will allow the security services new powers to prevent those seeking to radicalise others from using the internet or communicating through social media.
There will be no devolution of justice and policing to Wales, with the manifesto pledging these issues will remain reserved for the UK parliament.
The Bar Council today criticised both Labour’s and the Conservatives’ lack of pledges to restore legal aid, saying that this shows how party politics underrates justice as an election issue.
The bar claimed that it undermines Labour’s commitment to ensure legal representation ‘remains available’ to those in need, and the Conservatives’ pledge to ‘provide access to justice in an efficient way’.
‘Such a promise will… be cold comfort to a single parent battling for custody against an abusive partner, a retired person challenging their benefits payments or a person seriously injured in accident at work or on the roads,’ Alistair MacDonald QC, chairman of the bar, said in response to the manifesto launches.
But the bar did praise Labour’s commitment to ‘repair’ the damage done to judicial review, and the Conservative plans to ensure publicly funded advocates working on serious sexual offence cases receive specialist training.