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Human Rights of Prisoners - a Facebook Posting


Human Rights of Prisoners - a Facebook Posting

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Derek Arnold
Derek Arnold
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There is no more apt forum for this discussion so my apologies if it's the wrong place.

I am posting a comment from Sir Roger Gale, which I feel impacts on the rights of those serving a prison sentence or trying to progress through their rehabilitation, I quote:

It is said that only two things in life are certain and those are death and taxes. To those I would add a third, the Law of Unintended Consequences.

European Human Rights legislation, to which many would wish us to adhere post-Brexit, has a lot going for it. These measures are designed to protect people, in the home and in the workplace and in public, from the excesses of human unpleasantness and abuse and by and large they work. By and large. Occasionally, though, they prevent action that most would regard as reasonable and sensible.

We can argue the toss over `prisoner`s voting rights` which have been the subject of a judgement of the Court of Human Rights against the Government of the United Kingdom. In that judgement the Court determined that it was wrong to prevent those convicted of and imprisoned for criminal offences from voting in elections. This followed a case following a convicted murderer who in another age would have been hanged for his crime. Following years of wrangling a squalid compromise was reached under the terms of which those with minimal sentences and in prison at the time of a General Election, which we estimate to amount to, perhaps, half a dozen people at any one time while the rest would continue to be deprived of their voting rights as part of their sentence – a position with which I wholeheartedly agree.

But Human Rights legislation also appears to getting in the way of the enactment and enforcement of `Helen`s Law` which I support and which is being promoted by my friend and colleague, Conor McGinn, the Labour Member of Parliament for St. Helens North.

In February 1988 Helen Mc Court was, at the age of 22, murdered. Her body has never been found but her killer, Ian Simms, was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of sixteen years. To date Simms has refused to reveal how he disposed of Helen`s body and his family have been unable to bury her or bring closure to their terrible loss. Notwithstanding the fact that two Home Secretaries, Michael Howard and Jack Straw, indicated that Simms would never be released until the whereabouts of Helen`s body was revealed Simms has, because of Human Rights legislation, now been removed to open conditions in preparation for release on parole.

I met Marie McCourt, Helen`s very brave Mother, at the House of Commons last week. She has been searching for her daughter`s body for twenty-seven years and continues to grieve. I believe that she, and the fifty-four or so other families involved in cases where a murder conviction has been secured without a body or where a body has been partially recovered years later, also have `human rights`. There should, surely, be no release, ever, of a convicted murderer who has refused to reveal the location of his or her victim`s body or at the very least to co-operate with the police to the best of their ability in endeavouring to find that victim. That is what, in essence, `Lucy`s Law` seeks to achieve Two states in Australia have such a law and if it is good enough for another Commonwealth country then it ought to be good enough for the United Kingdom."

The following is my response to this comment:

While it is very sad that Simms doesn't come clean and give this family the peace they need it is also a dangerous precedence to assume that any government can impose arbitrary standards to suit the emotions and anxieties of grieving families.

While, in principle, it would serve a purpose to restrict Simms' progression to open conditions based on his cooperation on this matter, to do so puts too much power in the hands of already corrupt and self-serving political elites who appear themselves to be above the law in so many ways.

You are undermining the entire rehabilitation process. Neither you nor I can guess at the motivation of someone else. The fact that he is being prepared for open conditions must mean that those in the justice system are convinced that Simms has shown progressive behaviour in many other areas of his sentencing. We can't seek to undermine that process with emotive propositions which second guess the efforts of staff on the coal-face.

David Salter's response is succinct and sensible, it highlights one area where self-serving has an impact on legislation. The recent vote in the House of Lords is another example of the elite going against the wishes of the electorate.

The whole concept of human rights has been hijacked and is now used as a political tool, trying to convince people that it's not a good idea anymore because the Home Office has allowed hate preaching clerics and those known to be working against the people of this country by promoting terrorism to act with impunity.

You now seek to support a further hijacking of human rights to promote the concept of the government getting its own way when one of its citizens refuses to cooperate in some way - this is a very dangerous and insidiously dark proposition.

Like democracy, human rights cannot become a bargaining chip - something to be given or denied depending on who holds the upper hand. A 'right' is a right, not an option; we see far too many situations where rights are being removed. The right to a fair trial; equality under the law; the maxim of innocence before being proven guilty, the list grows by the day.


And a postscript of:

As a postscript, I would also remind you that the government's response to the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that you mention, is a clear example of how the rights of the individual are, well, ignored.

The ECHR has declared the government in breach of human rights as they apply to the sick and disabled yet austerity measures continue to attack the poorest in our society while ministers declare that use of a food bank is an adventure while at the same time enjoying the heavily subsidised food and drink available in the various Parliamentary restaurants and bars.

The government has chosen to ignore those findings in favour of its own political machinations, so the public should be very concerned about the ability of any government to decide which 'rights' should be adhered to and which ignored.


For me, this rings all sorts of bells and gives rise to so many concerns. While I can sympathise with the family of the victim. this approach to the rights of prisoners sets a dangerous precedence.


AB2014
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Diogenese - 1 May 18 8:09 AM
There is no more apt forum for this discussion so my apologies if it's the wrong place.

I am posting a comment from Sir Roger Gale, which I feel impacts on the rights of those serving a prison sentence or trying to progress through their rehabilitation, I quote:

It is said that only two things in life are certain and those are death and taxes. To those I would add a third, the Law of Unintended Consequences.

European Human Rights legislation, to which many would wish us to adhere post-Brexit, has a lot going for it. These measures are designed to protect people, in the home and in the workplace and in public, from the excesses of human unpleasantness and abuse and by and large they work. By and large. Occasionally, though, they prevent action that most would regard as reasonable and sensible.

We can argue the toss over `prisoner`s voting rights` which have been the subject of a judgement of the Court of Human Rights against the Government of the United Kingdom. In that judgement the Court determined that it was wrong to prevent those convicted of and imprisoned for criminal offences from voting in elections. This followed a case following a convicted murderer who in another age would have been hanged for his crime. Following years of wrangling a squalid compromise was reached under the terms of which those with minimal sentences and in prison at the time of a General Election, which we estimate to amount to, perhaps, half a dozen people at any one time while the rest would continue to be deprived of their voting rights as part of their sentence – a position with which I wholeheartedly agree.

But Human Rights legislation also appears to getting in the way of the enactment and enforcement of `Helen`s Law` which I support and which is being promoted by my friend and colleague, Conor McGinn, the Labour Member of Parliament for St. Helens North.

In February 1988 Helen Mc Court was, at the age of 22, murdered. Her body has never been found but her killer, Ian Simms, was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of sixteen years. To date Simms has refused to reveal how he disposed of Helen`s body and his family have been unable to bury her or bring closure to their terrible loss. Notwithstanding the fact that two Home Secretaries, Michael Howard and Jack Straw, indicated that Simms would never be released until the whereabouts of Helen`s body was revealed Simms has, because of Human Rights legislation, now been removed to open conditions in preparation for release on parole.

I met Marie McCourt, Helen`s very brave Mother, at the House of Commons last week. She has been searching for her daughter`s body for twenty-seven years and continues to grieve. I believe that she, and the fifty-four or so other families involved in cases where a murder conviction has been secured without a body or where a body has been partially recovered years later, also have `human rights`. There should, surely, be no release, ever, of a convicted murderer who has refused to reveal the location of his or her victim`s body or at the very least to co-operate with the police to the best of their ability in endeavouring to find that victim. That is what, in essence, `Lucy`s Law` seeks to achieve Two states in Australia have such a law and if it is good enough for another Commonwealth country then it ought to be good enough for the United Kingdom."

The following is my response to this comment:

While it is very sad that Simms doesn't come clean and give this family the peace they need it is also a dangerous precedence to assume that any government can impose arbitrary standards to suit the emotions and anxieties of grieving families.

While, in principle, it would serve a purpose to restrict Simms' progression to open conditions based on his cooperation on this matter, to do so puts too much power in the hands of already corrupt and self-serving political elites who appear themselves to be above the law in so many ways.

You are undermining the entire rehabilitation process. Neither you nor I can guess at the motivation of someone else. The fact that he is being prepared for open conditions must mean that those in the justice system are convinced that Simms has shown progressive behaviour in many other areas of his sentencing. We can't seek to undermine that process with emotive propositions which second guess the efforts of staff on the coal-face.

David Salter's response is succinct and sensible, it highlights one area where self-serving has an impact on legislation. The recent vote in the House of Lords is another example of the elite going against the wishes of the electorate.

The whole concept of human rights has been hijacked and is now used as a political tool, trying to convince people that it's not a good idea anymore because the Home Office has allowed hate preaching clerics and those known to be working against the people of this country by promoting terrorism to act with impunity.

You now seek to support a further hijacking of human rights to promote the concept of the government getting its own way when one of its citizens refuses to cooperate in some way - this is a very dangerous and insidiously dark proposition.

Like democracy, human rights cannot become a bargaining chip - something to be given or denied depending on who holds the upper hand. A 'right' is a right, not an option; we see far too many situations where rights are being removed. The right to a fair trial; equality under the law; the maxim of innocence before being proven guilty, the list grows by the day.


And a postscript of:

As a postscript, I would also remind you that the government's response to the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that you mention, is a clear example of how the rights of the individual are, well, ignored.

The ECHR has declared the government in breach of human rights as they apply to the sick and disabled yet austerity measures continue to attack the poorest in our society while ministers declare that use of a food bank is an adventure while at the same time enjoying the heavily subsidised food and drink available in the various Parliamentary restaurants and bars.

The government has chosen to ignore those findings in favour of its own political machinations, so the public should be very concerned about the ability of any government to decide which 'rights' should be adhered to and which ignored.


For me, this rings all sorts of bells and gives rise to so many concerns. While I can sympathise with the family of the victim. this approach to the rights of prisoners sets a dangerous precedence.


I have to say I think this particular case is a poor one to choose. Let's be honest, if the guy really felt remorse, he would say where the body is. That in itself is nothing to do with human rights. It ought to be in his sentence plan as an aim of his OBPs, so if that aim is not met, he is not seriously progressing. It comes back to the days when any life sentence had to be ratified by the Home Secretary, until that was stopped by the courts and given to judges. Politicians lost the ability to interfere in the criminal justice system, and they're not getting it back. If the people managing the sentence use it as a measure of his remorse and progression, that is entirely separate and probably justifiable in court. If that isn't done, then in reflects on offender management rather than the system. Once again, though, people are trying to use individual cases to suit their own agenda. This looks more like a plug for 'Helen's Law', which he can conveniently use to attack human rights law, so both MPs get something out of it.

=========================================================
Grrr! Aaargh!

BenS
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I disagree with the proposed "Lucy's Law", not because I believe anyone who commits murder without revealing where the body is should ever be released, but because there are undoubtedly people in prison who have been wrongly convicted of such a crime, and have absolutely no way out, because they can't possibly know where the body is because they didn't do the crime (and the person might still even be alive). I reference Glyn Razzell and Nick Rose as two (unrelated) examples of possibly innocent people convicted in murder-without-body cases, where evidence has been submitted arguing that their respective murder victims may still be alive.

If you are wrongly convicted of murder where there is a body, there is always a chance of new evidence and better scientific techniques exonerating you down the line. If you are wrongly convicted of murder without a body, you are basically left to rot with no way of proving your innocence.

If (which will never be the case), the justice system was 100% reliable, in that 100% of people convicted of crimes were guilty and 100% of those acquitted were innocent, I would agree with a law whereby a convicted murderer whose victim has not been located must reveal the location or never be released; but for the sake of innocent people convicted of this, I can never support such a law.
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BenS - 7 May 18 9:31 AM
I disagree with the proposed "Lucy's Law", not because I believe anyone who commits murder without revealing where the body is should ever be released, but because there are undoubtedly people in prison who have been wrongly convicted of such a crime, and have absolutely no way out, because they can't possibly know where the body is because they didn't do the crime (and the person might still even be alive). I reference Glyn Razzell and Nick Rose as two (unrelated) examples of possibly innocent people convicted in murder-without-body cases, where evidence has been submitted arguing that their respective murder victims may still be alive.

If you are wrongly convicted of murder where there is a body, there is always a chance of new evidence and better scientific techniques exonerating you down the line. If you are wrongly convicted of murder without a body, you are basically left to rot with no way of proving your innocence.

If (which will never be the case), the justice system was 100% reliable, in that 100% of people convicted of crimes were guilty and 100% of those acquitted were innocent, I would agree with a law whereby a convicted murderer whose victim has not been located must reveal the location or never be released; but for the sake of innocent people convicted of this, I can never support such a law.

Fair point, it's easy to lose sight of the fact there have been, and still are, people in prison who are innocent, including murder cases. I'm thinking of Barry George and Stefan Kiszko, but there are undoubtedly others. Sadly, the Social Attitudes Survey has started to show that a small majority would rather see an innocent person in prison than see a guilty person be acquitted. I'm guessing we have certain sections of the media to thank for that, and they do love a good self-righteous campaign to show they aren't going soft on law and order.

=========================================================
Grrr! Aaargh!

GO


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