ANALYSIS: How the Human Rights Act led to super-injunctions

“That’ll be three times I’ve blocked it, then”.

New Labour created the Human Rights Act, failed to live up to its strong points – and thus landed us with super-injunctions.

An MP blithely remarked to me last week that, “Everyone knows who the injuncting footballers are – it’s all over the internet”. Well, she’s wrong – but then, the lady isn’t a soccer fan. There is quite definitely much assertion about the two players involved – but it covers a dozen names….and each opinion is followed by “and that’s definite”. The fact is, lots of journalists know, but most other people don’t.

As for the ‘prominent AV campaigner’ involved in some kind of love-tryst-rat-horror, it could be anyone from Eddie Izzard to Neil Kinnock. Neither of those two have a sex life in the public interest,  but Nick Clegg does – as does Ed Miliband. The trouble is, we don’t know – because some Judge has decided, on an entirely gratuitous (perhaps even political) basis, that the celeb’s interest is more important than ours.

The latest cases follow a plethora of other court actions by actors, footballers and television personalities bagging draconian court orders preventing revelations about extramarital affairs, and much worse. Judges (and the unscrupulous silks appealing to them on behalf of feckless, overpaid idiots) are applying gagging orders using legal instruments originally designed for child murder cases. Some of the justifications are risible – one bewigged twerp last week, for example, declared that the order “was necessary to protect the star’s children from playground bullying”. Maybe the star should’ve thought about his kids before having sex with somebody quite obviously not his wife.

But it’s not just that gagging orders encourage a lack of responsibility, and serve only the rich (poor folks can’t afford them – they simply take the consequences – be they divorce, or having their clothes burnt) it’s the fact that there was a heinous ‘legal’ stage in between child murders and the current obscene exploitation of laws about privacy by the Carter Rucks of this world.

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For the last fifteen or more years, the employees and failing management of child welfare departments up and down the land have been hiding behind ridiculously draconian injunctions. These have covered up everything from judicial paedophilia to psychiatric money-motivated scams and systemic social services sexual abuse of the most abhorrent kind. I didn’t want to get dragged into this nasty demi-monde: some of the victims of abuse are themselves unbalanced – or at times incoherent fantasists. But once you’ve been close to a genuine case, the repulsion drags you back in – if only to stop it happening to some other poor wretch.

During their time as, respectively, Ministers for Women and Children, those champions of social justice Harriet Harman and Ed Balls did sweet diddly-squat to right the appalling wrongs being wrought by the Secret Family Courts in which most of the actions occurred. The proceedings often took place in a suspicious rush, and to the bewilderment of those parents who were about to have their lives turned upside down by them.

In Harman’s case, her dereliction was compounded by the fact that she had some involvement in the drafting of a major cause of such mediaeval Star Chamber processes. Unbelievably, this was the Human Rights Act (HRA) of 1998.

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Having returned to Office after twenty years in the political wilderness, New Labour was puffed up with hubris about its Human Rights Act. In 1999, centrally-involved Home Office Minister Paul Boateng said:

“[Under the Act] it will be unlawful for any public authority to act in ways which are inconsistent with the Convention rights. The Act does not define “public authority” but this will include central government, local authorities, and courts and tribunals. People whose Convention rights are breached by a public authority will be able to sue them in the courts and seek a remedy – including damages if appropriate….”

I do not know of a single instance of this taking place. Boateng continued:

“The Act will definitely affect the way we make decisions involving children. Look at Article 8, which guarantees the right to respect for private and family life. Any decisions concerning children will have to take account of this right. A court making a residence order in favour of one parent will need to take account of the right to a family life for the child, and for both parents…..”

Seen in the light of later abuses of single-mother rights, this reads like a dick joke at a funeral.

Although one of the original drafters of the HRA, Jack Straw has at least had the decency in the decade or more since its passage to accept that it is badly flawed. In 2008, Straw said, “What we want to do is generate a debate about whether there should be a declaration of responsibilities and rights which grow together, the kind of rights we are owed and the rights which we owe, in a single document”. What Mr Straw meant was that the Act was far too much about freedom to (aka license) when it was supposed to be about the ordinary person’s freedom from the sub-species Homo tabloidus yelling into their letter boxes (or hacking their phones) a week after their kids had been murdered by killers entirely missed by ever-vigilant social workers.

As ever with Black Jack, politics got in the way to stop any further action. But not a peep was heard from Harman. Having promised in 2006 to increase media  access to the Secret Family Courts, in 2009 she declared the Labour legislative programme ‘too crowded’ to allow for this.

In doing so, Harriet Harman laid herself open to some pretty unpleasant accusations.

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Harman was a newly qualified solicitor in 1978 when she became legal officer for the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL).  The Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) had been affiliated to the NCCL for about four years. PIE’s members openly argued for the abolition of the age of consent. It is perhaps not surprising that, finding herself in this environment, Harman argued for the age of consent to be lowered to 14, and the decriminalisation of incest.

When the Protection of Children Bill was put before Parliament in order to tighten the laws on child pornography by banning indecent images of under-16s, Harman was at the forefront of the NCCL response.  Signed by Harriett Harman in April 1978, the NCCL’s formal response to the Government proposals to reform sex laws argued that,

“…childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage…Although this harm may be of a somewhat speculative nature, where participation falls short of physical assault, it is none-the-less justifiable to restrain activities by photographers which involve placing children under the age of 14 (or, arguably, 16) in sexual situations. We suggest that the term ‘indecent’ be qualified as follows: – A photograph or film shall not for this purpose be considered indecent (a) by reason only that the model is in a state of undress (whether complete or partial); (b) unless it is proved or is to be inferred from the photograph or film that the making of the photograph or film might reasonably be expected to have caused the model physical harm or pronounced psychological or emotional disorder.”

Harriet Harman in 2011 with friend and Southwark Labour campaigner John Friary – arrested in February on suspicion of grooming under-age girls for sex.

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While others seek for signs of some odd sexual dimension to Ms Harman herself in this past history, I don’t. The problem remains that she is an extreme sex and gender reformer who, like her great-uncle Lord Longford, never gives any thought to the consequences. Or as otherwise liberal bisexual actor Rupert Everett once said of Harriet, “She is just another f**king New Labour idiot”. Worse still, even when faced with adverse consequences, she refuses to budge.

Ever since its passage – in contrast to her colleague Straw – Harman has been implacably opposed to changes to the Human Rights Act. And in fairness, it as to be pointed out that only last year Nick Clegg said in the Commons that people would “tamper with the Human Rights Act at their peril”.

Yet it is perfectly clear that most recent super-injunctions have been based on the following word for word Article 8 in the Act:

(1) Everyone has the right to privacy for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. (2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

There are two very obvious points to make about the above. The first is that there are so many caveats to these ‘rights’, like much of the old Weimar Republic’s legislation, at the very least they are create a gap just waiting for any Nazi coach and horses to blast a way through it. Such is the result when politicians are given access to the drafting of citizen safeguards: controlling by instinct and training, they cannot bear to give any real freedoms out at all.

Second – and this is the acid test – look at some of the abuses that have occurred despite the words ‘Everyone has the right to privacy for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’. Words like Hackgate spring to mind. And what of the phrase ‘There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right’ in the light of Secret Family Courts and ‘legalised’ child napping? Above all, the exploitation of the Act’s wording by those of dubious morals, execrable ethics and great power has been shocking to behold.

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For once, the Conservative Party was right in 1998: it opposed the Human Rights Act, a stand that allowed the Left to depict the Tories as a sulphurous collection of wicked hobgoblins. But that was the pre-Cameroon Conservative Party. In August 2007 and again in February 2009, Cameron pledged to repeal the Act. That, in turn, was before Nick Clegg started to champion it.

Now Coalition Dave is reduced to ‘expressing doubts’ about recent super-injunction judgments, and waffling about a Bill of Rights to replace the Act. Worryingly, however, he has quite brazenly said that he thinks a family ‘leg up’ in getting on career-wise is OK by him. He would say that, given his mother-in-law got him a first job at Carlton TV. So much for meritocracy.

I accept as much as the next person that Coalition government requires compromise. But there is a difference between compromising, and being compromised. On the subject of citizen rights and responsibilities (otherwise known as liberty) equality before the law, judicial separation from politics, and meritocracy in health and career, I stand for no compromise: these are the only absolutes I recognise for what constitutes civilisation. All this needs to be written down and enshrined not in a Bill of Rights – for such things are seen to apply to the citizenry, with an exemption for their governments – but in a Constitution just as binding on the lawmakers as those being asked to obey such laws.

Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger is currently carrying out a review of the rights and wrongs of the use of super-injunctions. The report, due next month, could lead to a change in the law.

The Americans began with ‘No taxation without representation’. A new beginning for Britain should be ‘No exemption from deserved illumination’.

24 thoughts on “ANALYSIS: How the Human Rights Act led to super-injunctions

  1. This government said it would roll back the repressive legislation enacted by New Labour. Now they are in power, they are getting the same taste for control and it’s all kicked into the long grass. It’s jobs for the boys, and if your an ordinary working or lower middle class kid then you can forget it.
    It always was about connections anyway and this lot don’t even try and hide the fact. Secret family courts are indeed a star chamber, I know someone who asked for respite care for his child for one week. Social services then kidnapped the child and sent him to Wales. It was only a facebook campaign that brought the case to light. Even then the family was lucky that the Independent took up the story. The jouranalist who wrote it told me they do not have the resources to report proceedings because of all the red tape involved including getting judges permission. This country has sunk to it’s lowest because of Straw, Blair, Harmen and co. All three are lawyers, no coincidence.

  2. If an MP raises the subject of one of these injunctions in Parliament and names the person protected by the injunction, is that MP protected under Parliamentary Privilege and thus the revelation is reportable as the proceedings of the House?

    • It would probably take a very brave (foolish?) MP to do that, especially since we are talking about a legal privelage that is only really available to rich celebs and the great and the good. ‘Shoot’ and ‘foot’ come to mind.

  3. John, the more I learn about Ms Hatemen, the more I find her to be yet another repulsive socialist unfit for any public office.

  4. Again you reveal the unsavoury content of the players in our public life, the content that the broadsheets are too squeaky clean to offer, and the red tops too embarrassed to admit.
    You speak of the power of the internet. Yes…
    How about http://www.badtastebook.com ( available) as a PERMAMENT PROFILE and truthful record of the people who have made a contribution to the mess that we are in. A fitting record in our democracy which serves as a voter’s guide, and is immune from any legal retribution.

  5. It’s not the children’s fault if their parent has an affair so I don’t see why they should they be made to suffer in the playground. I enjoy reading about shenanigans as much as anybody but I am not sure that everything that interests the public is in the public interest. Does it change things because I know that John Major had an affair with Edwina Curry? Or Paddy Pantsdown’s indiscretions? I may have enjoyed reading it at the time but when I think of these people now it is their political contribution that is of more interest.
    I am not convinced that nepotism really is a significant factor in inequality either. If Carlton could have recruited a more meritocratic PR than Cameron then Carlton are the losers, so it’s a self-regulating thing. I don’t see what’s wrong with somebody who has become successful helping an offspring. The opposition to this seems suspiciously like envy to me. If my daughter showed an interest in my line of work then I would want the chance to help her. It’s nice that we can do something for our children at that stage in life when they are growing away from us.

    • All good points Anthony. I find most people called Anthony Ward are good eggs. I got my daughter her second job, but only because she was outstanding at the interview: I specifically said to the CEO involved, “If you don’t think she’s up to it, then turn her down”.
      In the Carlton case, Phil Green admitted afterwards that Dave’s mother-in-law “gave me no choice”. Also listen to the then CEO of the TV station Richard Eyre, a man as honest as the day is long. He told me, “I thought Cameron was a plank, but there was no alternative to hiring him”.

      This is how nepotism becomes a threat – at which point it is despicable.

      • Richard Eytre would say that would he not? Anyhing to bash the PM.
        In any case an internship is just what it means to do. To learn on the job. So if the mother in law is that powereful that they could not stand upto her it says more of these two than of the MiL of DC.
        I see no harm in giving some one an “in” be it as an intern or at a job. If they are no good at it they will fall very quickly. So stop jabbering on about this partivular subject. It is the way of life.

    • No it is not the childrens fault, it is the fault of the parent who should have thought about it prior to his action.
      If the person who is the subject of the “investigative journalism” is in the public eye and has some power over us, either of suggestion (the media) or legislation, that persons actions are relevant to allow us to judge his words by his actions. Being lectured to, or legislated over by hypocrites should be open to disclosure. The public could then decide if their views are valid and good, or mere self interest. A prominent journalists dismisal of the blogosphere in rather sneering terms is a fine example.
      Naturally, a lot of the journalism is mere prurience, but even this (sorry)state of affairs (so to speak) is preferable to having a press controlled effectively by the state. What would be even better would be proper investigative journalism by the MSM but that doesn’t happen these days. That job is left to those such as this site. An electorate educated enough to seperate the prurience from the substance would also be good-but again this is not too likely and freedom of speech should be paramount.
      This is very much a battle which must be fought and won (even if it looks as if it is supporting the Murdoch press-it isn’t-it is protecting our freedoms).

    • Mr Ward
      Your response conveniently skips over several aspects of the reality we live in. Firstly, Carlton are not operating in a perfectly competetive market where their success is dependent on optimising the personel they utilise – in fact they are rewarded by wealthy advertisers (members of the same wealthy club) for feeding the population carefully sculpted tranquilising drivel.
      Nepetism, whilst as you rightly mention can be viewed as a natural nurturing instinct, is so skewed within our social framework so as to give exponentially biased advantage to the wealthy (this is not about a craftsman handing down is tools and wisdom, but instead a self serving “club” maintaining its influential connections at the heart of the power structures within our “democracy”)
      To suggest opposition to this kind of elitism is mere envy is at best ignorant and at worst an insult to the poor of this planet who are kicked around by this clubs’ self serving decisions… I think far to much concern is given to the wellbeing of the rich and famous – if they dont like the media limelight, just move to Fallujah where no British tabloid cares how many affairs you have or prositutes poke things in you!

  6. “Harman argued for the age of consent to be lowered to 14, and the decriminalisation of incest”
    As a victim of incest, this makes me feel really ill. Anyone who has ever been violated in this way will testify to what a horrible betrayal it is, to be raped by a family member. You are meant to love your family, families are meant to be a safe place for children to grow and learn how to be a member of human society, and so if a member of your family uses you as a sexual partner it is very confusing and damaging for a child. A lot of children who are raped by a family member do not scream out and tell anyone because they are so torn between the hateful way they are being used and their natural love for their family. It really is a horrible crime. Harriet Harman is either a very wicked woman or an immoral idiot, at any rate, that woman ought never have been given any authority over other people’s lives, she is clearly unfit for public office.

    • Where Hatemen is concerned – I do not think it is either/or – she has proved herself to be both of these and incompetant (even Blair sacked her twice) to boot !

      The only reason (in my opinion) that she has any ‘position of authority’ now is because of her Union (Dromy) connections and the block vote ! Returned the favour getting him in on a ladies only seat I would guess !

      Her backing of little Ed makes me wonder whether she wants to be the power behind the throne – (she has displayed her ‘kingmaker’ abilities and was ever setting herself up with a cloak and dagger playset !) He will do as he is told ! Which from a male (or a childs) perspective is decidedly concerning !
      The ‘best interests of the child’ mantra has ever been used to justify injustice (usually in secret) by authoritarian types !
      The only answer is completely open justice – no closed courts – which would put paid to all these subjects including ‘super injunctions’ !

  7. You don’t seem to blog much about feminism, John, but I would be interested to know your views. The Telegraph has done an interview with Simon Murray, a new chairman of Glencore who has things to say about women in the boardroom. Robert Peston has picked up on it on Twitter. Knowing that your opinions are wide-ranging, do they encompass feminism as well?

  8. I always thought the gutter press in Britain rather extreme yet served a purpose in pulling both ends in towards a decent middle. The people we appointed to look after our interests seem only interested in pulling one end.

    Harmon? You´d have to believe she´d been some kind of victim herself to swallow her thought processes.

    • Unfortunate use of the word swallow there, perhaps. But you make an excellent point that had never occurred to me. Thank you for that.

  9. It is ridiculous to blame the Human Rights Act for hyper injunctions etc
    “Everyone has the right to privacy for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. (2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right ….” is how Article 4 begins and the intention of the persons who drafted it clearly had the intention of PROTECTING the family from interference by the STATE.
    Contrary to custom our judges did not look at the intentions of the legislators when interpreting the statute,they instead decided to use the article as a gag to prevent parents from protesting publicly when the State took their children for adoption,and to silence spouses or partners from protesting publicly when their “other half” strayed !
    An aricle clearly designed to protect citizens from State interference has been misinterpreted so that instead of protecting citizens it is used as a gag to ENABLE State interference without hindrance!
    Don’t blame the Human Rights Act ,blame the judges who would surely similarly misinterpret any new Bill of Rights if the government is ever foolish enough to try and introduce one !

    • The bill of rights has been drafted and implemented in Europe and with that I exclude the UK . The mentallity here on the continent is vastly different from the UK. They lack the investigative journalisme we have in the UK. Their outlook on life takes on a vastly different partern than we have in the UK. Soppy come to mind.
      I do feel that the UK government should throw out this law and draft one specifically for the UK.
      Ian, for example where do you have more interference in the freedom and rights as far as the press is concerned than in France? You try to print something derogatory against Sarkozy and if he takes it seriously you will find your self very quickly out of job and worse.

  10. Ahhh Harriet Harman. A particularly poisonous destructive misanthropic nasty piece of work.

    I personally (currently at least) do not advocate capital punishment, a position that has possibly materialised due to some misguided karmic belief in ‘what goes around comes around’ and a general aversion to ‘dropping to their level’. However, one day the populous could very well finally wake up and achieve awareness of the utterly perilous situation we find ourselves in and the direct influence sociopaths such as Harriet Harman and her ilk have had on the fruition of these dire state of affairs. And on that day, I would find it very hard indeed to argue with what I can foresee would be the overwhelming public demand to bring back burning at the stake. If only for this treasonous (not only to her state but to her species) witch.

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