The perverse and damaging impact of human rights legislation has dismayed not only Conservatives but all those who believe in common sense.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling promised to resolve this in his speech in Birmingham this morning. However many regard the solution as not merely being the repeal of Labour’s Human Rights Act (which the Lib Dems have blocked) but also our withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr Grayling said:
“We are a Party that supports real human rights.
“A Party that abhors the terrible things done in countries like North Korea … a Party that will always fight to support change that ends the brutality of dictatorship around the world.
“But the human rights laws in our courts have moved a long, long way away from that.
“It is crazy that someone who poses a terrorist threat to this country should be able to claim their human rights to stay here.
“It is unacceptable that human rights laws should back those who break our immigration and planning rules, and yet all too often ignore the rights of our own people.
“And we should not be told by an international court, accountable to no one in this country, that we have to give votes to prisoners and stop sending the most brutal murderers to prison for the rest of their lives.
“Last year I promised you that our manifesto would contain a clear plan to tackle this problem.
“You will hear more about that plan shortly.”
This does seem to be proving a tricky matter to resolve. Certainly part of the problem is the coalition with the Lib Dems. But that should not constrain what goes into the Conservative manifesto. Then there was Dominic Grieve – who was Attorney General until July and stuck up for the European Court of Human Rights. However he is now on the back benches. Yet still the thrashing out of he the details has not been resolved.
Anything which involves more than more Government Department becomes more problematic.
The most striking aspect of Mr Grayling’s speech was strong emphasis both on robust punishment for criminals but also on the importance of rehabilitation. There is no discrepancy between these two goals. “It’s where we need to be as a Party. Tough but compassionate,” as he said.
For example there was the following passage about young offenders’ institutions:
“We’ve introduced a ‘lights out’ in young offender institutions, to give those young people more of a structure and discipline to their day.
“And we’re getting rid of playstations and Xboxes from cells there too. No young person in detention should be sitting up all night playing computer games.
“When I talk to young offenders they always say the same thing. They know that being able to get a job on the outside will be all the
difference between getting sucked further into a life of crime or going straight. Our reforms are working towards helping them achieve that.”
Is that being tough or tender? Of course it is both. Prison officers – like parents – might find it rather tempting to leave the charges watching television or playing computer games all day. It is the soft option. That doesn’t mean it is a kindness.
Similarly Mr Grayling declared:
“We need to get to a point where we have specialist centres in our prison system where we can concentrate our best mental health expertise.”
There was emphasis on improving the probation service to reduce the reoffending rate:
“In this country today, if you go to jail for less than 12 months, you are released onto the streets with £46 in your pocket, and with no guidance, no supervision, no mentoring, nothing.
Almost 60 per cent of those serving short sentences will re-offend within a year, some back behind bars within a matter of weeks or months of being let out of prison in the first place.
Their crimes may get worse and worse until the sentences are long enough to get them off the street for years.
But even then, there is inadequate planning for release, no proper through the gate support. There is no requirement to continue rehab
Ladies and Gentlemen, these are failings that cannot remain unaddressed. That’s why we have embarked on a massive programme of reform to our prisons and probation system.
And by next year, we will have plugged these glaring gaps.
For the first time in recent history, every offender released from custody will receive a year’s statutory supervision in the community.
Our prison system will be reshaped, with a network of prisons that will specialise in preparing offenders for release into the community. Most prisoners will spend the last few months of their sentences here, to prepare for release into the area they live.
It will be possible to have a proper through the gate rehabilitation service, run by the same provider inside and outside prison.
This is our best chance of stopping some of our most challenged people falling through the cracks all over again.
And I want to put on the record here my thanks to the probation staff who are working so hard on the ground preparing the way for these changes.
As I noted in June the reforms to the probation service are dramatic but have not excited much interest from the media. It’s rather like the Troubled Families programme – which is such an important initiative from Eric Pickles. I suppose the lobby groups on some of these issues are dominated by Leftists who find it difficult to accept the Conservatives are tackling problems that were shamefully ignored during 13 years of Labour Government.
Mr Grayling’s rehabilitation revolution is part of his strategy of fighting crime. His efforts in this regard deserve far more recognition.