Feb 16 2013
Home Secretary Theresa May has accused judges of "subverting" British democracy and making the streets of Britain more dangerous by ignoring new rules aimed at deporting more foreign criminals.
In a scathing attack, she vowed to introduce primary legislation to restrict the human rights of offenders after a minority of the judiciary decided to "ignore parliament's wishes". But she warned the delay in getting that onto the statute book would inevitably mean "more victims of violent crimes committed by foreigners in this country".
MPs approved new guidance for judges in July last year making clear the right to a family life - set out in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights - was only qualified. The change was designed to end a string of cases where it was used to justify granting foreign criminals the right to remain in the UK rather than being deported.
Labour questioned at the time whether the guidance would be sufficient to over-ride the precedent set by earlier cases and said it would support primary legislation. But writing in the Mail on Sunday, the Home Secretary pinned the blame squarely on the judges who have "got it into their heads that Article Eight...is an absolute, unqualified right.
"Unfortunately, some judges evidently do not regard a debate in Parliament on new immigration rules, followed by the unanimous adoption of those rules, as evidence that Parliament actually wants to see those new rules implemented," she wrote. One judge, she noted, had justified his decision on the basis that the new guidance had been subject only to "a weak form of Parliamentary scrutiny".
"It is essential to democracy that the elected representatives of the people make the laws that govern this country - and not the judges," she wrote. "Yet some judges seem to believe that they can ignore Parliament's wishes if they think that the procedures for parliamentary scrutiny have been 'weak'. That appears actually to mean that they can ignore Parliament when they think it came to the wrong conclusion."
She said she was determined to bring forward a new law making it clear the deportation should be the norm in everything but "extraordinary circumstances". "It is depressing that the steps we have already taken should have been insufficient to produce that result.
"The inevitable delays inherent in passing primary legislation will mean that there will be many more foreign criminals who successfully avoid deportation on the basis that they have a family here. There will also be more victims of violent crimes committed by foreigners in this country - foreigners who should have been, and could have been, deported," she added.
Judges who allowed prisoners to remain were also guilty of reinforcing public perceptions of human right as "legal dodges that allow criminals to escape proper punishment and to continue to prey on the public".
Mrs May insisted that she was "a great admirer of most of the judges in Britain" and accepted the need for the power of government ministers to be "reviewed and restrained" by the judiciary. "But the law in this country is made by the elected representatives of the people in Parliament. And our democracy is subverted when judges decide to take on that role for themselves."