Human rights

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Predictably, Conservative Cabinet ministers have condemned the European Court of Human Rights for its ruling on whole-life prison sentences.

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling said: “The British public will find this ruling intensely frustrating and hard to understand.”

Of course the key figures in the debate are not people you’d have over for dinner.

Jeremy Bamber et al are unlikely to ever garner public support. But isn’t it the unpalatable cases that test the objectivity of any legislation?

It would be easy to pass laws if all examples fell neatly into categories of right and wrong. But impartially judging the human rights of those we rightly view as cruel monsters is the real test of the concept.

I’m not saying I know the answer, but I do know that laws have to be applied dispassionately if they are to be fair and sustainable.

I’m sure that if I knew any of the victims of Bamber and his ilk I’d be furious about the very idea that their sentences could be shortened in any way.

But I’m equally sure that I’d have been asking for the death penalty from the outset. I’d be the last person to hold an objective view.

It’s inevitable that cases that illustrate this change in the
law are likely to be the most appalling criminals, but that shouldn’t prevent us from being objective about human rights, no matter how grotesque the human.

Audrey Wood

Shandon Cresent

Edinburgh

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