UK Politics

Ken Clarke hopeful of deal on European human rights laws

Ken Clarke Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Clarke is seeking to obtain an opt-out for British courts in deportation cases

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke says he is close to reaching a deal which would allow British judges to overrule European human rights legislation.

Mr Clarke says the agreement would prevent individuals repeatedly challenging deportation rulings, says the Daily Telegraph.

Last month Home Secretary Theresa May sparked a row over a man who could not be deported "because he had a pet cat".

The judiciary said the cat was not a factor in the man's right to stay.

Mr Clarke became embroiled in a row with Ms May over the cat story.

But there have been a number of deportation cases which have outraged government ministers.

Family life 'right'

In December 2009 attempts to deport Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, an Iraqi Kurd, failed because human rights legislation entitled him to a "family life" in UK.

Ibrahim knocked down and killed Amy Houston, 12, in Blackburn, Lancashire, in 2003 and was later jailed for driving while disqualified.

Mr Clarke said the deal with the European Court of Human Rights might be agreed at a conference in London in April 2012.

He said it would stop the situation where "everybody who's just lost his arguments about deportation should be able to go there and get in the queue, wait a few years to get it all reheard again when he's lost the argument three times already" in the UK.

Mr Clarke told the Telegraph: "What we are trying to do is get the role of the court sorted out so that it deals with serious human rights issues of the kind that require an international court.

"We want the court back to its proper business as an international court which takes up serious issues of principle."

Britain took over chairmanship of the Council of Europe, which oversees the court, earlier this month.

'Pig's ear'

Mr Clarke said: "A lot of member states have been pushing for similar things, and a lot of them believe a British chairmanship is the best time to deliver it, and they think we're the best hope of drawing this to a conclusion.

"The term human rights, it gets misused. There is a tendency in this country for the words human rights to get thrown about as much as health and safety. Both of them get hopelessly misused."

He added: "When some official, some policeman, whoever, has made some mistake in taking some absurd decision, the first thing they do to fend off criticism is to blame it on health and safety and blame it on human rights. The truth is that someone's made a pig's ear in the office."

On Monday, England and Wales' top judge said courts have tended to interpret the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights "too closely".

Lord Judge said a lot of ECHR rulings related only to specific cases and did not set wider legal precedents.

The Conservatives want to replace the Human Rights Act (HRA) - through which the European Convention is incorporated into UK law - with a British Bill of Rights but Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has insisted the HRA must remain in force.

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