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Archive for November, 2010

Murdoch, BSkyB and the public interest test

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

See my article, on the News Corp bid for BSkyB, on the Australian website On Line Opinion here.

Categories: Media

A change – after much foot dragging

November 2, 2010 2 comments

Some prisoners are finally to get the right to vote. The only part of this that worries me is that the government are only agreeing to make the change reluctantly. David Cameron is said to be “exasperated and furious” at being forced to extend the right to vote. This highlights a shameful episode in which the government has, for a number of years, done everything possible to avoid protecting this aspect of the right to vote as required under the European Convention.

At present the blanket ban on all prisoners voting makes no distinction as to the seriousness of the offence or whether the punitive part of the sentence has been served. Two people may be convicted of the same offence, but one person may be sent to prison (and lose the right to vote) and the other may not (and not lose that right). The choice of punishment may reflect various factors and does not necessarily  indicate whether the loss of the political right is appropriate.

The impetus for reform is not just from the European Court of Human Rights in Hirst. The Scottish court in Smith v Scott found that the law violated fundamental rights and issued a declaration of incompatibility under s.4 of the Human Rights Act. While a declaration will normally prompt a change in the law, in this case it did not – which is unsurprising given that prisoners’ rights is a politically unpopular cause.

The British system for protecting fundamental rights relies on the political branches taking responsibility (and not simply leaving these matters to the courts), and this means sometimes making unpopular decisions. For this reason, I hope the Opposition does not seek to score cheap political points from this issue.

Categories: Election