LETTER: The European Convention on Human Rights can’t help with Bedroom Tax
In last week’s issue, dated February 28th, your correspondent (“name and address supplied”) requested help from a human rights lawyer. The writer of this letter is answering the call.
Regrettably, the author of last week’s letter is misinformed about human rights law. Contrary to his/her belief, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to privacy, is not an absolute right, unlike, say, Article 3 of the ECHR, the prohibition on torture.
Article 8 is in fact a qualified right, meaning that a court will balance the individual’s right to privacy with a legitimate objective of the state, such as the rights and freedoms of others, applying the principle of proportionality.
So if the letter writer was able to convince a court the so-called “bedroom tax” was indeed a breach of Article 8 (which the author of this letter very much doubts in any event, sorry), he/she would also be obliged to argue the tax was a breach of privacy that was also out of proportion to the state’s objective (which the author of this letter, again, very much doubts).
And the reference to an illegal immigrant being allowed to remain in the UK because of his pet cat? If the author of the previous letter was referring to the speech of the Home Secretary, Theresa May, at the Conservative Party Conference in 2011, apologies again for disappointing him or her: this story was not in fact true (as were several other stories about the ECHR, the prisoner being entitled to hardcore pornography; the suspect in police custody being entitled to fried chicken etc).
The ECHR in this country has a bad press, not helped by some sections of the media.
May I remind your readers, the ECHR was authored principally by Sir Winston Churchill after the Second World War, to prevent atrocities committed by the Nazis from ever happening again.
We can of course withdraw from the ECHR, but then we would not be in good company. Belarus, which has a very poor human rights record, is the only country in Europe not to be a party to the Convention.