Human rights have poisoned our legal system and have reduced aspects of it, both criminal and civil, to the point of farce. When our legal system descends into farce, we should stop – and ask ourselves how we got here and what should be done about it.
The rights themselves, as contained in the European Convention on Human Rights ( ECHR) and incorporated, without amendment, in the Human Rights Act 1998, are farcical, given that they were drafted with a view to preventing genocide and not to regulating the criminal and civil aspects of a sophisticated legal system.
In relation to our criminal law, we have had the dreaded decision in Cadder, as a result of which convictions have been quashed and prosecutions have been dropped. But it is in relation to our civil law that a new and exciting farce is unfolding, namely, the challenging of Acts of the Scottish Parliament on the grounds that they are not ECHR compliant. For pity’s sake! This is farcical since no lawyer, when interpreting such an Act, can be expected to sit back and ponder about whether it is ECHR compliant. That question is a subjective one and in most cases it is impossible to predict the outcome of judicial decisions. We might as well toss a coin.
I have every sympathy with judges who are forced to play a part in these farces and wrestle with these human rights. There is only one solution, and that is the complete repeal of the human rights legislation. If, which I deny, it is necessary for new rights to be substituted for human rights, we must all hope and pray that they will be drafted, introduced and interpreted in such a way as to avoid the poisoning of our legal system.Roy Johnstone (retired solicitor), Edinburgh