Thursday, October 6, 2011

UK: Tories aren't serious about axing the Human Rights Act

Never work with children or animals: so the American comedian and actor W. C. Fields is supposed to have said. Theresa May should have taken his advice, and kept Maya the cat out of her speech at the Tory Party Conference.

The Home Secretary had asserted that a Bolivian immigrant could not be deported because he ‘had a pet cat’. The word ‘pet’ seems superfluous because the cat was unlikely to be wild. Anyway, her mention of the animal has provoked a flurry of rather feeble cat jokes, of which I promise there will be none in this article.

More seriously, the Justice Minister Ken Clarke jabbed his colleague in the eye by openly doubting that anyone had escaped deportation on the basis of owning a cat. He also spoke up for the Human Rights Act, whose absurdities have served to keep hundreds of potentially dangerous foreign criminals in this country.

As to the cat, it seems the truth lies somewhere between Mrs May and the Justice Minister. An immigration judge certainly did opine that the acquisition of Maya by the Bolivian and his partner ‘reinforced his conclusion on the strength and quality of their family life’. However, a more senior judge later said that he gave no weight to the cat argument, which he described as ‘irrational’.

Now it emerges that the Bolivian was facing shoplifting allegations, and that Maya was co-owned by his gay partner. Mrs May should have made much more of the facts.

In any case, the Home Secretary was partly misinformed as well as uninformed — and Mr Clarke’s scepticism was also overblown. But even if Mrs May had been 100 per cent accurate, she would have been wise not to mention the animal. What should have been a serious point was immediately turned into a frivolous one.

Some will be inclined to forgive her. There she was, talking to the Tory faithful. Jokes are expected on these occasions. The rank-and-file like a bit of red meat even in a sanitised, Cameron-led Conservative Party.

Yet there are more than enough egregious — if much less humorous — examples of the Human Rights Act being used to prevent the deportation of foreign criminals. To be fair, Theresa May cited some of them in her speech. 
Not even Ken Clarke can dispute the accuracy of these stories...

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